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Dissatisfaction mounts over Florida’s low, slow unemployment payments

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than a quarter-million Floridians filed for unemployment last week. As of Friday, less than half of the unique claims that began flooding int the state’s Office of Economic Opportunity six weeks ago half been paid.

And not only are people unhappy that it takes so long for claims to turn into unemployment checks, they are also distressed that the payments -- once they begin -- are so small.

Florida’s $275 in weekly unemployment benefits were set in 1999. If they had kept up with inflation, the weekly stipend would be $432 and change.

Only three states and Puerto Rico offer smaller benefits than Florida.

Democratic lawmakers failed in their attempt to force a special session to deal with compensation. In a conference call session of a lawsuit seeking to speed up payments attorney Steve Andrews called it par for the course.

“I’ve never seen any state make it easy for poor folks to be paid,” Andrews said.

The latest statistics show just 48% of the 1.3 million-plus claims the state has received have been paid.

"It’s amazingly frustrating,” said unemployed Cape Coral graphic designer Kathy Read.

Read has waited weeks, while her son, who lives in Massachusetts, got a payment on his unemployment claim in four days.

“He did his application on a Friday afternoon. On Tuesday he got five weeks of back pay, so it’s astonishing to me that there could be such an extreme difference,” Read said.

She isn’t alone.

About 1-in-3 claims remain stuck in a verification cue. Since March 15, the state has rejected 300,000 claims.

The delay sparked a three-car protest, honking horns and driving around the block that houses the state’s unemployment agency Monday afternoon.

Laura Tweed drove up from Central Florida and said the trip was worth the cost of gas.

“I am sick and tired. No one will return our calls. I’ve gone to all my congressmen, my senators, my legislators. I’ve gone everywhere,” Tweed said.

If you have been turned down, you are allowed to appeal by going online.