JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As businesses reopen their doors to the public, Florida’s unemployment offices remain closed.
And new numbers show the need for those benefits in Jacksonville is once again on the rise.
There is no question the unemployment office was not prepared for the number of people laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, eight months later, the office is still playing catch up.
Rita Higley said she is still waiting for benefits.
“I still have no answer and it’s been going on 12 weeks,” Higley said.
12 weeks ago was the last time Higley was able to get through to the unemployment office. She found out her eligible dates were filed wrong.
She was told it was fixed, but still, she hasn’t seen the money.
“I did go back to work so I’m not in a real panic, but I can imagine people that are depending on this money are very anxious," Higley said.
It’s hard for anxiety not to grow when the only way to get answers from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is by calling a hotline.
A hotline that every Floridian is instructed to call if they’re having issues with their application.
But there seemed to be hope when the DEO sent out a newsletter recently saying “Reemployment Assistance Customer Service Centers will reopen at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, October 19.”
News4Jax went to Jacksonville’s City Hall to go to the unemployment office on Monday and we found a sign hanging at the front entrance. It instructed those in need to go to a building just a few blocks away.
But when we got there, an employee said no one from the unemployment works there.
News4Jax reached out to DEO for clarification and was told they understand the wording in the newsletter could be misinterpreted, but they were referring to call centers reopening on Monday, not physical locations.
“It’s frustrating,” Higley said.
Because Higley knows to get any answers she’ll have to keep calling.
New numbers released from the state reveal people applying for benefits is not slowing down.
In September, 770,000 Floridians lost their jobs, that’s 27,000 more than the month before.
Duval County had the highest percentage of job loss in the state last month at 5.7%. Nassau County had 4.4% and Clay and St. Johns were at 4.1%.
Still, all Northeast Florida was below the state average.