Coronavirus layoffs puts strain on unemployment offices

Coronavirus layoffs puts strain on unemployment offices
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Before the coronavirus pandemic, Florida was one of the states with the lowest number of unemployed people in the country, but now that’s changing fast.

People who find themselves in need of unemployment benefits are finding it more and more difficult to get access to them.

Making their stress worse, many are struggling to get in touch with state unemployment officials.

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As COVID-19 forces layoffs across the country, workers in our area trying to recover what they have lost.

Ava Kittridge is one of them.

Kittridge says after losing her job at Arlington Toyota she was told to file for unemployment.

“They said oh it might be a temporary layoff, we might hire you back, but I didn’t believe that,” said Kittridge.

Action News Jax talked to Kittridge using social distancing as she tried to file.

“The thought that I may not have a place for me and my cats to stay, we might be out in the streets during this virus, which is terrifying, no one should have to go through that,” said Kittridge.

Kittridge says when she started the application process she got locked out of the system, phone lines were busy, and she couldn’t get any help over the phone.

“Here I am almost a week into being unemployed I’m finally trying to file, I come to the office and it is closed because of the virus,” said Kittridge.

“CareerSource centers are providing services virtually right now. I would recommend your viewer calling our call center as early as possible and we will do our best to assist,” the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said in a statement sent to Action News Jax.

Today the U.S. Labor Department reported more than 74,000 people in Florida applied for unemployment benefits last week.

It says across the U.S., nearly 3.3 million workers applied for benefits - a record setting since 1982.

So for now Kittridge says she can only hope things get better.

“There has been a lot of tears in the last few days, a lot of crying, a lot of reaching out for help anyway I could, it’s just been very hard. I had to part ways with a lot of my personal belongings, prepping just in case I have to stay in my car,” Kittridge added.

Action News Jax spoke with Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes over the phone today who says the hope is that by helping small businesses first, they’ll be able to help individuals keep their jobs. But right now, it’s a matter of figuring out what the city can afford.

To file for unemployment benefits all Florida ,claims must be completed online at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website.

You need to have your social security number, driver’s license or other government issued id.

You will also need to provide details on your last 18 months of employment.

The amount you receive will determine how long you’ve worked and how much you earned during that time.

Unemployment difficulties