Mohammed Waleed Younus recently got back to work after losing his job last year during the pandemic. But he told NBC 6 his struggles are far from over.
“I’m to the point where I really don’t even know where to go, who to ask for help,” he said.
He said he owes up to $15,000 dollars to friends and family. The debt weighs heavily on him as he waits to sort out the issues keeping him from receiving thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits, he said.
“Maybe a little over $10,000 in total,” he said.
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Waleed said his payments stopped in September of last year after a return to work issue showed up on his account, saying he had gone back to work for a company he hadn’t worked at since 2018.
“I called unemployment and they assured me that within two to three weeks it would be sorted out,” he said.
Over 10 months later, Waleed was still waiting.
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“Besides frustrated, just very disappointed,” he said. “I’ve lost my motivation.”
Ruel Allen also contacted NBC 6 Responds. He said he’s waiting for about $4,500 in benefits.
“It is dire right now,” he said. “I’m down to my last $480 right now.”
Ruel said he lost his job in February and applied for benefits right away.
“At this point, I haven’t received any money,” he said.
He and Waleed are two of the dozens of people who have recently contacted NBC 6 Responds to ask for help. Several say their accounts were locked. Others reported issues verifying their identities. Most said they had not been able to reach anyone at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, also known as the DEO, despite repeated calls.
“They are not forgotten,” said Dane Eagle, Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “We hear them, we are addressing the situation.”
In July, Eagle told NBC 6 Responds they were working on changes to improve the department, including plans to hire 435 staffers to help with call center support and processing claims. So far, the department has not said how long it will take to make those hires and train them.
For those still waiting, the changes can’t come soon enough.
“So I can at least pick myself back to when I was somewhere, you know, instead of just keep on drowning,” Waleed told NBC 6 during our interview. “That’s what it feels like. I feel like I’m just drowning.”
NBC 6 sent the DEO Waleed and Ruel’s information, along with a list of the others who had recently contacted our team.
Waleed said he finally received the money he was owed, which ended up being about $12,000. He said the funds are what he needed to get back on track.