Our Stories: These extraordinary people can help you get answers

If the Florida “Reemployment Assistance” program has left you penniless, frustrated, and despairing, don’t give up.

It’s not you.

The CONNECT information system was famously “designed to fail” under the previous administration of now-Florida Senator Rick Scott (R). But determined state legislators, community activists, and even the jobless themselves have formed a relentless army that continuously applies pressure on the Dept. of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for action on individual cases.

Don’t give up.

Write your Florida State Reps & Senators

First, we encourage you to write to your own Florida state representative and senator with a brief summary of your case and a request for action. This is really important because they won’t vote to change the system if they haven’t heard the facts from their own constituents. Not all of them have been responsive, but as an affected party, you need to go on record. So even if you decide to contact one of the folks listed below, make sure your legislator has heard from you about your problems, too.

Don’t write them a novel–they won’t read it–your point will get lost. Just briefly summarize the problem and tell them what specific help you’re asking them for.

Rock Stars of the Failing Florida Unemployment System

Community Activist Vanessa Britto is a force of nature who researches and writes about the evolving unemployment situation in Florida. Vanessa and her partners Tami Bohm and Laura Tweed unearthed and compiled a comprehensive list of DEO employee direct email addresses; many jobless people have been helped by emailing staff directly. The trio also run a Facebook Group called Action Group for COVID-19 Unemployment where you can ask questions.

Representative Anna V. Eskamani (D) represents FL House District 47, but she’s advocated for jobless people all over the state get their rightful benefits. Anna is actively pushing the Republican-controlled state for legislative hearings about the terrible mismanagement of unemployment benefits. She hosts a weekly Facebook Live event at 5pm Eastern on Fridays; you can submit your questions in advance here. Anna also publishes regular updates on recent developments and advice for navigating CONNECT.

Senator Jason Pizzo (D) represents FL Senate District 38, but collects individual case problems from all over Florida and presses DEO for a resolution in each case. If you need individual help, fill out Senator Pizzo’s Unemployment Assistance Form. His office is focused on getting all data into a uniform format by using the form, and may not be able to reply to separate emails and messages. But rest assured, Senator Pizzo is making trips to Tallahassee with his list, and he’s gotten results.

News Reporters

Greg Angel is a reporter for Spectrum News 13 in Orlando and Spectrum Bay News 9 in Tampa. “NewsGuy Greg” has taken a special interest in unemployment issues. Follow him on Twitter or visit his Facebook page.

More

There are countless everyday heroes out there assisting people to get their rightful benefits, and we definitely haven’t begun to list them! Know of someone who deserves to be on our list? Let us know in the comments below!

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