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Florida files for unemployment assistance from FEMA, joining more than 30 other states

Posted at 7:33 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 19:33:09-04

TALLAHASSEE — Florida is applying for FEMA disaster funds to help people who are unemployed.

Governor DeSantis announced Wednesday he is applying for the funds, which would add an additional $300 a month to the benefits people are already receiving.

We spoke with Bonnie Armstrong in Naples. Her restaurant closed back in March, and she’s been on furlough since then. In April, Armstrong organized a protest in Naples, because she and many others weren't receiving any unemployment payments at all.

She finally got benefits in May, but then at the end of July, the extra $600 from the Federal Government disappeared, leaving her with only $275 a week.

“That’s $1,100 a month. My rent is $1,275, so fortunately I have some savings, but it’s dwindling," said Armstrong.

Armstrong posted a picture of her bills to Twitter, showing she’s losing more than 800 dollars a month.

But she says, she’s one of the lucky ones.

“I have a friend, she’s getting $71 a week. I mean how, and she’s got 6 kids, so how can somebody live on that?” said Armstrong.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 3.7 million people in Florida have filed for unemployment. We also spoke with activist Vanessa Brito, who traveled to Tallahassee Wednesday to deliver a list of people to the Department of Economic Opportunity who still haven’t been paid.

“I gave them a list of 5,500 people and I was able to give them an idea of, these are the folks that you’ve emailed, but you really haven’t provided any concrete answers or next steps for them," said Brito.

For Brito and Armstrong, the announcement from Governor DeSantis’ office that it was applying for FEMA funds was long overdue. 32 states are already receiving money, according to FEMA’s website.

Brito says, in addition to helping applicants, she’s filing a legal petition to try to change Florida law to be able to remove State officials.

“If and when we get those signatures, that is going to send a message that he, as well as other state officials are absolutely 100% accountable, as they should be," said Brito.

That petition has to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures. If approved, it will appear on a ballot sometime next year. Then, if it passes, Brito says she plans to immediately file a petition to have Governor DeSantis removed from office.

Armstrong says she plans to sign the petition as soon as it’s available, but meanwhile, Armstrong says she hopes to be back to work by October, when the snow birds come back. She’s glad she’ll likely have a little more help from the additional FEMA funds by then.

“I’m hopeful. I have to be hopeful, otherwise I would have given up a long time ago," said Armstrong.

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