“I can’t tell you the emotional toll, the anxiety of not being able to log in,” said Pena, 44. “The only comfort is seeing that I’m not alone.”
Thrown out of work by a coronavirus pandemic that has killed at least 25,000 Americans, workers across the country have encountered downed websites and busy phone lines as they try to secure benefits that will help them pay for groceries and other essentials.
The problem has been especially acute in tourism-dependent Florida, where hundreds of thousands of idled workers have run up against a glitch-ridden system that provides some of the lowest payments in the United States — when it functions properly.
Pena was able to file a claim more than three weeks ago, but has not been able to get into the system since. Others have been unable to file a claim at all.
Critics say the failure is intentional.
“The system was broken from the very beginning and designed that way so you had fewer people making claims,” said Democratic state Representative Geraldine Thompson, who says hundreds of constituents in her Orlando district have told her they have been unable to file claims.
Facing widespread outrage, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis says he has taken steps to bolster the system but has not said when it will be operating properly.
With cruise ships idled and airplanes almost empty, Florida travel adviser Nick Pena has been out of work for nearly a month, spending his days trying to secure jobless benefits from a state seemingly unable to provide them.