FORT MYERS — A Fort Myers woman is trying to figure out how she’s going to pay her bills.
A loophole in the unemployment law means she is falling through the cracks, and there are hundreds of thousands of others throughout Florida in the same boat. Just last month, Nancy Frede was working at the Salvation Army. She was laid off, but it wasn’t because of COVID-19, and she quickly found out that the reason she lost her job could mean the difference between getting benefits, or getting no help at all.
It was on March 4th that Frede received the letter, telling her she was being laid off due to a funding cut from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The strange thing is, is that I was an employment specialist for Salvation Army, so right now, to fill time, I do resumes for people," said Frede.
Frede said she loved her job, and even talked about the thousands of people who have been helped by the Salvation Army during the pandemic. Unfortunately, Frede now needs help herself.
“When I was told that I was going to be let go, I was told there was no problem, I would get unemployment. They would not deny it," said Frede.
But they did deny it. Her application for federal unemployment benefits came back ineligible, because she was not laid off for COVID-19 reasons. And she can’t collect state unemployment, because the Salvation Army is a religious organization, and is exempt from paying unemployment tax.
“I've mailed the application, I've emailed the application, and I just can’t get any money," said Frede.
Frede is one of more than 266,000 people who have been rejected for benefits so far in Florida. That’s more than 38% of the applications that have been processed.
“Like many people, I had two jobs, and now I’m not sure what I’m going to do because I still need to pay bills," said Frede.
Frede said, for now, she’s hoping to get a part-time job answering calls from other people trying to file for unemployment, but she’s still trying to find something permanent.
“What do we do? What, there has to be an answer somewhere," said Frede.
We did reach out to the Salvation Army, and they got back to us with a very brief statement. It says “As funding streams change, we adjust accordingly in order to impact as many lives as possible.”