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It doesn’t matter how often she calls or when, Laurie Scop said she hadn’t been able to reach anyone at Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity — the agency that handles unemployment benefit claims — for months.
“I call every day,” she said. “I call toward the beginning of the day, I call towards the end of the day.”
The Miami Beach resident said she lost her job in February 2021 and filed for unemployment benefits.
“I have not received a decision even on my claim,” she said. “I have not received anything.”
She said her status on the CONNECT site shows up as “pending.”
“For people who have very specific issues and they need to talk to someone at DEO, now it’s practically impossible to talk to them,” said Daniel Rowinsky, an attorney for Legal Services of Greater Miami. “Even us, who used to have contacts at DEO, have the same problem.”
Rowinsky said he and others who work in similar positions have seen the issue worsen in recent weeks, as the calls for help to his office keep coming.
“This is draining our resources because most of the problems that claimants have nowadays are not really legal issues,” he said. “These are customer service issues that could be resolved by a person on the phone if they are able to get someone at DEO.”
NBC 6 Responds called the DEO’s claims and benefits number listed on the agency’s website and selected options to reset a PIN and report fraud – which should lead to a customer service agent. Both calls ended with the same recording, saying, they “…are currently experiencing higher than average call volumes and all available customer service representatives are currently assisting other claimants …”
“There are sometimes when it just disconnects automatically,” Laurie said. “There are other times when you are just on hold. I’ve never been personally able to speak with anybody.”
For Laurie, the lack of answers is especially difficult.
“It’s been considerably stressful,” she said.
She said she was healing from several brain surgeries she has had over the past year to treat an aneurysm doctors found in August 2020.
“They are impeding our ability to receive the earned income from reemployment assistance,” she said. “They’re making it harder for us to be able to return to work and to be able to meet basic needs like getting healthcare.”
A spokesperson for the DEO did not specifically address why people like Laurie say it’s been so difficult to speak to someone at the agency, only saying it “…encourages all claimants to utilize the Reemployment Assistance Help Center for assistance.”
Earlier this year, the DEO told NBC 6 Responds it was hiring hundreds of people to help with claims. This week it said the department had filled 411 of the 435 positions made available, adding: “Since March 2020, DEO has also adjudicated nearly 30 million issues, processed more than 5.8 million claims, and paid more than 2.4 million eligible claimants.” The DEO said as they continue to hire staff, they expect those numbers to increase.