Florida Unemployment Escalation w/Rep. Eskamani (Updated July 12, 2021)
UI Claim Escalation with Rep. Anna Eskamani
Thank you for trusting the Office of Representative Anna V. Eskamani to assist with your unemployment claim.
Per guidance from the DEO, all claimants are now advised to submit issues & inquiries through the new DEO Help Center available in English, Spanish, and Creole. This includes issues with locked accounts, payments on holds, and more.
➡️➡️➡️➡️ Here is the link to DEO’s new Help Center ⬅️⬅️⬅️⬅️
The DEO recommends all inquiries be submitted only once per issue to help expedite assistance on cases and the processing of payments. If you are experiencing a new issue since your last submission to the DEO Help Center, please submit a new entry to reenter the help queue. The DEO has told us that locked accounts via their Help Center should be solved within days but other inquiries could take upwards of three weeks to be resolved.
🚨🚨 If your case is urgent, please call our Legislative Office at 407–228–1451. We are open and constantly intaking calls and calling people back Monday through Friday, 9:00am — 5:00pm. If we are unable to pick up the phone please leave us a voicemail. 🚨🚨
We are continuing to work daily on unemployment cases and provide rolling updates on our unemployment blog here and on social media @AnnaForFlorida.
Thank you for trusting us to help you with your unemployment benefits. Our small but mighty legislative team has been inundated with questions about Florida’s broken unemployment system. Tens of thousands of people have emailed and called us, and it’s become near impossible to get back to everyone in a timely fashion.
With that said — we’ve compiled some of the most frequent issues and questions on Florida’s unemployment system and hope it provides some insight as you continue to hold DEO accountable, and work towards securing all of the money that is rightfully yours.
Please read through this blog post and if you still have questions, consider joining us for our Weekly Virtual Town Hall that we host every Friday at 4:00pm EST. Click here to learn more and submit your questions in advance.
Also if you need help looking for a new job, please contact your local CareerSource Florida workforce board. Click here to learn more and click here to watch our Virtual Event with CareerSource Central Florida.
Please also read through DEO’s Reemployment Assistance Resource Guide which you can find here: http://www.floridajobs.org
Rep. Anna V. Eskamani of Florida State House District 47
Below is a review of recent DEO updates that might help w/some of your questions —
WEBSITE CRASHES: The CONNECT website continues to crash due to high traffic. DEO has encouraged people to “be patient” and try to login at a different time if website keeps crashing/resetting you in loops. They are also working to improve server capacity with a longterm goal of moving CONNECT into a cloud-based system.
WORK SEARCH REQUIREMENT WAIVER: As of today, Florida’s Work Search Requirement is back in place. Click here for a FAQ focused on the Work Search Requirement Waiver.
Below are more screenshots to help understand the Work Search Requirement.
Here’s a series of Q&A we also asked DEO to help answer based on questions provided to us by unemployed Floridians >>
1. I understand that furloughed workers who will go back to work in 8 weeks are exempt — how do they PROVE that?
- If the claimant separates due to lack of work and does not exceed 8 consecutive weeks and has a fixed or approximate return to work date, no proof is needed.
- If the claimant separates due to employer initiated furlough that is temporary and the claimant remains job attached and expected to return to work for the employer, the employer should then provide documentation. If the individual is unable to provide verifiable information concerning the furlough, job attachment and return to work with the employer, they will not be exempt from the work search requirement.
- In response to the scenario regarding Disney workers who are still furloughed from April 2020: These individuals will have to provide written documentation from Disney verifying the furlough, that they have a job attachment and are expected to return to work with Disney to be exempt from the work search requirement.
2. If you are immunocompromised or going through some sort of treatment (like chemo-therapy) it basically says DEO will take that into consideration. How does someone report that barrier to doing the work search?
- If the claimant is not able to work, they would answer the questions accordingly. When completing the fact finding questionnaire, the claimant will be asked to provide the reason.
3. Just to be clear: living with a disability and pregnancy are not reasons for exemptions?
- Correct. However there are other programs available for people living with a disability and expecting mothers. Vocational rehabilitation and blind services with DOE, http://www.fldoe.org/contact-us/services-to-floridians-with-disabiliti.stml , disability Insurance through Social Security https://www.ssa.gov/disability/ , and Temporary Cash Assistance through DCF https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/access/temporary-cash-assistance.shtml .
4. For an unpaid internship, how would someone get DEO to approve that? Maybe they can just check in with Career Source every week instead?
- The claimant needs to be available for work. If the internship is full time during customary work hours, unless covered through an approved training program, the claimant would be considered unavailable for work.
- The claimant would need to meet the eligibility criteria for approved training. Each criterion below must be met and are as follows:
- Claimant must possess aptitude and skills that can be usefully supplemented by the training.
- The labor market demands for the claimant’s present skills must be minimal.
- The training must be a vocational, technical, internship, managerial, high school equivalency or academic program designed to prepare individuals for gainful employment.
- There must be a reasonable expectation that the claimant will become employed upon completion of the training.
- The training course or school must be approved by the Florida Department of Education (or other official governmental approving agency within the state where the training is being conducted.)
- The CareerSource Center may need to be consulted to determine whether the five criterion are met.
5. What do partially employed people do? They already have a job but it’s part time. (This question is really important and keeps coming up too)
- To determine a partially employed persons eligibility we would need to know what type of work their claim was based on, fulltime, part time and how many hours were in their customary work week.
6. Could you provide more clarity for self-employed people?
- Under regular Reemployment Assistance claim a self-employed person is not eligible for benefits when spending the major portion of the claimants customary workweek trying to become self-employed and no longer makes an effort to be an employee of another business. This is true whether or not the claimant has any income from self-employment, as it is not the purpose of reemployment assistance to subsidize unprofitable business ventures.
7. Is pitching their business to potential gigs count as doing the work search?
- Yes, for claimants receiving PUA, the attempt to gain clients should be counted as work search.
8. Is turning on the Uber/Lyft app count as searching for work?
- No, this scenario would not be considered searching for work nor would they be considered unemployed.
IDENTITY VERIFICATION ISSUES:
We have seen a flood of problems with ID.me. Please see this link for guidance on how to use ID.me
AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN (ARPA): The signing of the American Rescue Plan Act significantly expanded the number of weeks that many workers will be able to collect pandemic-related unemployment insurance benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration has published guidance to state workforce agencies regarding implementation of the ARPA provisions.
- EXTENDS PUA: The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which is for workers who are not traditionally eligible for unemployment insurance (such as independent contractors), was set to expire on March 14, 2021. It has now been extended through September 6, 2021, and the number of eligibility weeks have been increased from 50 weeks to 79 weeks.
- EXTENDS PEUC: Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) provides additional weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. PEUC was also set to expire on March 14, 2021, but the program has been extended through September 6, 2021. Additionally, eligibility weeks have been increased from 24 weeks to 53 weeks. NOTE: DEO is currently replenishing PEUC funds to reflect new end date of September 6th. If you exhaust your PEUC claim before replenishment, you will be moved into “Regular Ineligible” and will need to be moved back into PEUC.
- EXTENDS FPUC: The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program supplement of $300 per week, which was also set to expire on March 14, 2021, will be extended through September 6, 2021. HOWEVER, GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS’S ADMINISTRATION HAS ANNOUNCED THAT FPUC WILL END ON JUNE 26TH. MEUC WILL END ALSO.
- REMEMBER… PUA claimants were being asked to submit proof of employment back in January 2021. At this point, most folks have already done this, but just in case — click here to learn more. From DEO: “Documentation to validate your employment or self-employment needs to demonstrate the existence of employment or self-employment during the start of the applicable tax year and the date of filing your initial PUA application for unemployment benefits. If your claim effective date is for the year 2020, then your applicable tax year is 2019. If your claim effective date is for the year 2021, then your applicable tax year is 2020.”
- $10,200 NON-TAXABLE FOR 2020: Benefits recipients who earn less than $150,000 each year are not required to include the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits as income for the 2020 tax year. We are still waiting for the IRS to offer guidance on what people who already filed their taxes should do to take advantage of this benefit.
- HAVE ISSUES WITH YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIM? Please fill out DEO’s Help Center request form here.
- MEUC: Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) is a federally funded program that provides an additional $100 per week to eligible individuals in addition to the benefits they are currently receiving. MEUC is not available to claimants who are currently receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. Claimants may be eligible for MEUC if they have received at least $5,000 in net income from self-employment for the tax year prior to their initial claim. Learn more here. Due to Governor Ron DeSantis’s decision, MEUC will end on June 26th with the FPUC Program.
- ONLINE FORM TO REPORT FRAUD: DEO launched an online fraud form providing Floridians the opportunity to report instances of Reemployment Assistance fraud or identity theft. If someone is aware of any instance of Reemployment Assistance fraud or believes they are a victim of Reemployment Assistance identity theft, please click here and select the “Online Fraud Form” to provide the Department with additional information about fraudulent claims.
- FRAUD ISSUES: Because DEO has been clamping down harder on fraud, it’s lead to a LOT of other problems for Floridians who are doing everything right. In particular, we are seeing an uptick in Account Locks, Return to Work Holds, Incarceration Holds, and Pending Status. If you have any of these issues, please please fill out DEO’s Help Center request form here.
- As noted above, most accounts that are locked are locked due to identity verification issues.
- Any new claimant filing for Reemployment Assistance will need to verify their identity through ID.me. For more information about ID.me visit the claimant resource page, here.
- This link provides guidance on how to use ID.me
- If your account was unlocked and then re-locked, DEO is asking that you request assistance via their Help Center. The Help Center will redirect you to ID.me to request an account unlock. Click here to go to the Help Center.
- The most common uses of the 1099-G is to report unemployment compensation, as well as any state or local income tax refunds you received that year. Unemployed Floridians should be able to download their 10990-G form from their CONNECT accounts (make sure to TURN OFF your pop-up blockers when trying to download this form).
- INCORRECT 1099-G FORM? If claimants received a 1099-G Form and they believe is incorrect and/or they would like to amend the 1099-G Form they received, they should report this online at http://1099GRequest.myflorida.com
- 1099-G FAQ: https://floridajobs.org/.../claimant-tax.../1099-faqs.pdf...
PENDING STATUS/PENDING ADJUDICATION:
- Here is what DEO’s says on pending adjudication, which you can read in more detail at this link. Claimants can have a “pending” monetary status for many reasons. Those in pending status are undergoing a qualifying process in order to continue receiving benefits. DEO encourages those with a pending status to check on your CONNECT account every 48 hours.
DEO has a backlog a backdating claims. You need to call DEO to backdate your claim. The number is 833-FL-APPLY (1–833–352- 7759)
- The Department continues to work diligently to modify claim effective dates as quickly as possible. The Department has received thousands of requests from claimants to modify their filing effective date.
- The Department’s process of backdating Reemployment Assistance claims includes thorough research to ensure the claimant’s eligibility for backdating and to ensure the backdate does not negatively impact the claimant’s claim.
- Eligibility is based, in part, on the type of program the claimant is participating in, the reason why the claimant is requesting to have their claim effective date modified and the date the claimant applied for benefits.
- It is important to note that not all claimants who request backdating are eligible to be backdated. Paying eligible Floridians the benefits they are owed continues to be our number one priority.
- Claimants should check their emails and CONNECT inbox regularly to ensure they have not missed correspondence from the Department or the opportunity to request benefits for prior weeks.
We also learned from DEO that backdating Regular UC claims may result in you being charged with an overpayment. This overpayment should be temporary, and weeks should be removed from your PEUC plan to makeup for the difference.
ABILTY/AVAILABILITY ISSUES: Late last year, DEO sent a mass email to Floridians about ability and availability issues. This email include next steps to take to address these issues and according to DEO, you can visit AbleandAvailabletoWork.MyFlorida.com to complete the Ability and Availability to Work Form and provide any requested information. We also include term definitions below to help understand these eligibility issues better.
DISQUALIFIED WEEKS: This is what DEO says about disqualified weeks in CONNECT —
If you are still pending in PEGA (the more “mobile friendly” website) unfortunately that means you are waiting for DEO to transfer your information from PEGA and into CONNECT. Please make sure you did not miss an email from DEO alerting you of your CONNECT account. Pending could be due to Steps #2 and #3 below.
MONETARY REDETERMINATION: If you think your Weekly Benefit Amount is not correct, you may file a Request for Monetary Reconsideration with DEO. Click HERE to learn more.
GOING BACK TO WORK: We’ve received questions about what to do with your benefits if you go back to work. You may continue to request benefit weeks up to the week when you started working. When you request the week overlapping with your job, please indicate that you have worked and earned money during the week. If you expect to work full-time and/or earn over $275 in gross earnings during the week of overlap, you do not need to request benefits for that week and will NOT be eligible for benefits that week. If you are making less than $275 in one week you may still be eligible to receive benefits!
OVER PAYMENT: If you are getting overpaid try not to spend the money provided to you by DEO because 1.You might be asked to return it or 2. Future benefits may be deducted to make up for the difference. DEO will contact you if overpayment is suspected.
PUA, PEUC, and FPUC (CARES ACT PROGRAMS): We’ve gotten a lot of questions about the CARES Act programs and how they all work. Here is a link to learn more: http://floridajobs.org/cares-act
For those applying for Unemployment in Florida for the first time, the below graphics should help you reach the PUA Portal or to apply for PEUC if you are a Regular UC claimant. Remember, in order to reach the PUA Portal you must FIRST be deemed ineligible for Regular UC.
When you visit FloridaJobs.org/cares-act you will find more resources and information for FPUC, PUA, and PEUC. Below is a screenshot from DEO’s Applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance PDF that includes the following options to submit proof of employment in case the website is not letting you upload documents:
- QUARTER CHANGE/PUA & PEUC Renewal: Every new quarter requires Floridians to “renew” their PAU and PEUC application. This renewal will take shape as a series of questions that pop-up when you certify your weeks. See below for screenshot examples and CLICK HERE for guides on DEO’s website.
Note that the Quarter Change may lead to you having to reapply for unemployment benefits and start receiving Regular UC (versus PUA).
MISSING WAITING WEEK MONEY: If your waiting week took place after March 29th you should be paid for it! DEO mailed checks for the waiting week.
Please read DEO’s Resource Guide which you can find on FloridaJobs.org for additional guidance!
Find DEO’s Resource Guide here under the “Reemployment Assistance” banner.
If you have specific questions you would like Anna to answer, please tune in to our Friday Facebook Live at 4:00pm EST and submit your questions in advance here. This Facebook live will be recorded and shared afterwards and you do not have to have Facebook to watch.
Curious what the employer side of unemployment benefits looks like? Check out Anna’s tweet-thread on this topic by clicking here.
Follow Rep. Eskamani on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram via the handle @AnnaForFlorida.
Still need help with your unemployment claim? Fill out DEO’s Help Center form here. 🚨 If your case is urgent, please call our Legislative Office at 407–228–1451. If we are unable to pick up the phone please leave us a voicemail. 🚨