Ana Cepera’s struggles have no end in sight.
“Right now, I’m without a job,” she said. “Every day I’m like, OK, is today the day that they’re going to tell me I’m going to lose my home?”
The mother of three told NBC 6 Responds she was facing eviction.
"Many family and friends say, 'You can't cry,'" she said. "But sometimes you think that's the only thing you can do."
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Ana was also among the thousands of Floridians now ineligible for any unemployment benefits after two federal programs expired on Labor Day. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance covered people like independent contractors or gig workers, who traditionally don’t qualify for state benefits. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation provided additional weeks of benefits for those who had exhausted their benefits.
The Department of Economic Opportunity’s website said there were more than 545,000 jobs posted online. But Ana said, despite her efforts, she had been unable to find a job. She was also worried that the loss of unemployment benefits would make it harder for her to get back into the workforce.
“Because I’m not getting that kind of assistance, you don’t know if I have the money to go wash clothes to get ready for an interview,” Ana said. “You don’t know what’s going on in the background. You just automatically think that because I’m not working I want to live off the government and that is not the case.”
The DEO told NBC 6 Responds the number of people who were getting PUA OR PEUC benefits when the programs ended on Labor Day was not yet available.
Vanessa Brito, a self-described advocate for the unemployed, said she had been swamped with desperate calls for help.
“Now that the program has finally expired, I think it’s finally hit them that this is it,” she said. “There’s no more assistance.”
Ana, meanwhile, was living that reality, facing even more uncertainty without the $550 in benefits she was receiving every two weeks.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next week,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. How can I focus on having a job when I don’t even know if I have a stable home to go home to after I get off work?”
The DEO’s website said the agency will continue to pay eligible claimants the PUA and PEUC benefits they are owed for weeks of unemployment through the week ending September 4.