After waiting for unemployment benefits, 260,000 Floridians find out they didn’t qualify

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 800,000 people across the state have filed for unemployment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And many continue to tell stories about not getting unemployment checks after weeks of going through the online process.

One of those people is Andrew Carswell, a single father of three who up until five weeks ago was a restaurant server for the past six years.

“I haven’t gotten a paycheck and I haven’t received any tips. I have 88 cents in my bank account right now,” Carswell said.

On Monday, the News4Jax newsroom was bombarded with emails and calls from people who said they have not received an unemployment check.

Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents, like Carswell, learned Monday that they are not eligible but say they were not given a reason why.

Carswell said for the past five weeks he’s been waiting for an unemployment check after being laid off as a full-time server at a local restaurant.

He says he’s been checking it every morning since he filed for unemployment but could not figure out why the process was so slow.

“We had a big announcement that the website would be down all weekend," he said.

Then Monday morning when the website was back up, Carswell said he checked the website at 7:30 a.m. and it said he was ineligible.

“But it didn’t give me any determination or reason,” he said.

Even Gov. Ron DeSantis admitted the state’s unemployment system has major problems.

“It was designed with all these different things to basically fail, I think," DeSantis said Monday.

During a briefing Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said about 500,000 Floridians would receive checks Monday, saying that, “If you had a job and lost it, obviously you’re eligible."

Carswell says failure is not an option for him because he has three kids to support – which is why he filed this appeal explaining why he should be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. He says he’s applied for other jobs and has had no luck. And as of Monday evening, he created a fundraising page hoping someone will help.

“It’s devastating," he said. "And to think that it’s nothing I’ve done wrong. I just happen to be living in the wrong state. Florida is the worst state in the country with regard to unemployment. And I’m asking why me?”

Carswell is not alone.

According to the Florida Dept. of Economic Opportunity, more than 260,000 Floridians, or 40% of the claims processed, were deemed ineligible.

The state has an unemployment dashboard, that is supposed to be updated with the latest numbers, though this web page too, has gone on and offline before.

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