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Computer glitch stalling payments for those formerly incarcerated

DEO admits some accounts locked
Posted at 11:17 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 23:54:31-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Michael Zimmerman is at his wit's end.

"This money is just as important to me as it is to anyone else," he said.

Zimmerman is desperate. He lost his working security due to the pandemic. Now, his unemployment benefits have been held up.

"I was staying at an extended stay hotel pay by-weekly. Now I'm living in my truck," he said.

Zimmerman said his funds stopped abruptly. He said he was told by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity that anyone who is formerly incarcerated within the last 10 years will have a stop to their unemployment benefits due to an issue with the unemployment site.

"It started two weeks ago," he said. "I had a notice that said I have a pending issue."

Zimmerman said he was released from prison in 2017 after serving nine years on a drug trafficking conviction. That information matches up with the Department of Corrections website.

WFTS, WPTV's sister station in Tampa, reported that in January the DEO said it had close to a million "possible fraudulent" claims trying to enter the system.

"We saw the potential for fraud in other areas and there was a mechanism that would have identified those who have been incarcerated through the Department of Corrections," DEO Executive Director Dane Eagle said.

But the DEO admitted it locked some accounts that should not have been locked.

"As that was turned on, we realized that some were not incarcerated and may have gotten caught in there," Eagle said. "Maybe it's faulty data."

WPTV contacted the DEO, which provided a written statement:

"The department is aware of an issue affecting reemployment assistance claimants who may have previously been incarcerated and is actively working to resolve the issue so that eligible claimants are paid the benefits they are owed."

Zimmerman said the struggle is real when it comes to a felon trying to get his or her life back on track. He said this issue isn't helping.

"My truck might get repossessed if they don't figure this out quick enough," he said.

The DEO didn't give a time frame as to when the account issue will be fixed.