TAMPA BAY — Federal unemployment payments suddenly stopped on May 19 for many Floridians and a couple of technical glitches could be to blame, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
"After reviewing several claimant IDs, the Department has identified two technology concerns that may have prevented an individual from receiving their Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment over the last few weeks," said DEO spokesperson Paige Landrum.
Last Friday, we first reported about the missing $600 weekly PUA payments when Bill Silcox from Largo said he had received five payments in a row and then the money suddenly stopped coming for two weeks.
At that time, the DEO said the issue was due to switching to biweekly payments. On Wednesday, Silcox said it had been nearly three weeks and the federal payment still hadn't arrived.
"There's thousands and thousands of people in the same boat," he said. "That for some reason on May 19, the switch got shut off."
Overnight on Tuesday, we had more than 1,100 claimants fill out a survey to report that either their federal payments stopped on May 19 or they hadn't received any benefits at all. The list was submitted to the DEO on Wednesday.
Landrum said there could be a few reasons the federal payments suddenly stopped.
"We have noticed in most cases individuals who are not getting paid have not claimed their weeks," she said. "Or they claimed their weeks late, which can lead to a delay in payment."
Landrum said the other two reasons have to do with those technical glitches.
"Individuals who requested that their claims be backdated were not included in recent payment files," she explained. "We are working diligently to ensure these claimants are made whole as quickly as possible. Additionally, the department has identified that some claimants were not paid their PUA payment for their waiting week."
Landrum said the department has identified the "waiting week" individuals and should have them paid within five business days. Silcox said none of those reasons for delayed payments sound correct.
"They don't apply to me and I'm sure they don't apply to a lot people in this predicament," he said. "I never backdated my claim."
Silcox also said he got paid for his "waiting week."
On Tuesday, Florida State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat who represents the Miami area, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance that Florida is one of the worst states in the nation in paying out the federal benefit.
"The state of Florida is leaving millions of dollars on the table," he said. "Our rates of bringing people onto the program when they are ineligible for traditional unemployment are very low... it was about 28 percent. That rate is far below most states."
Rodriguez said Florida's unemployment system suffers from "willful neglect."
According to the DEO, they have paid more than 1.3 million claimants a total of $4.95 billion. However, the agency won't say how many of the unemployed have been paid in full.