Former contracted DEO employee shares tips for locked accounts, stalled money

Posted at 8:50 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 17:21:22-04

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — When it comes to unemployment payments, Kasim Perez, tells FOX 4 everything was going smoothly until March of this year.

"My account got compromised so it asked me to verify me. So I did the ID.Me," he said.

Once he was verified this first time, he says his account was unlocked. But then his payment for that week didn't come.

"So I went into the deposit area and it shows that it was a different bank account with a different routing number," he said.

Perez says he has no clue how or why that happened and he says neither did the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

He says after this, his account was locked again, then it was opened briefly for one payment in April 202 and then it was locked again.

"I've called and called 100 times. I've done the id verify me at least 30 times," he said.

And it's not just the DEO he's calling.

Perez says he's also tried the Mayor, State congressman, and Governor Ron DeSantis. He added that he even messaged President Biden for help.

"If I didn't have a girlfriend that was working and other little sources of income, I get SSI for my kids, that's the only thing that helps get us through. Other than that, we'd be homeless," he said.

He's looking for jobs, but in the meantime, he says he needs this money to stay afloat.

And tonight he, like many others in our state, has this message for the DEO.

"Take care of the problem," he said.

A former contracted DEO employee, Coreen Sutphin, tells FOX 4 that Perez's story isn't unique In fact, she says she spent months trying to help folks just like him.

"It was the most horrible job I've ever had," she said.

Sutphin says she worked for the department for 13 months, starting in May of 2020.

"There was just one issue after another and no answers, no resolve. No way to handle any situations," she said

She said representatives, like herself, got very little guidance when it came to handling some very big glitches.

"People would call up and say they didn't get their pay, they didn't receive their weekly money and we would go in there to check their account and someone changed their banking account information," she said.

And because of this, Sutphin says she was often left waiting for someone higher up on the food chain to help.

"There were days where maybe I took three phone calls in eight hours because I'm waiting on hold for three hours with people. Three hours for a supervisor on the line," she said.

Once she did get a supervisor on the line, Sutphin claims she was often told to have the client call back in a month.

"What was it like for you to kind of be in the middle of that?" asked FOX 4 reporter, Rochelle Alleyne.

"It was very difficult because it's extremely depressing, number one. People are crying. Grown men were crying. Crying, that they don't have money to feed their family or their children," said Sutphin.

And she predicts that things are likely worse after the DEO ended its relationship with hundreds of contracted customer representatives like herself.

It's a situation that she says needs to be fixed from the highest levels of the state.

"I feel the governor he's in charge, maybe not directly, but he needs to find out what's going on and why these people are not paid," said Sutphin.

But in the meantime, she says if you're one of those people that's still waiting on your money, you need to call your state representative and quick.

Click here to find your Florida State Representative.

Click here to find your Florida State Senator.

It's a method she's even had to use herself after being laid off.

"You want to call that office until you get some type of resolution because no one else is going to help them. No one. Because the DEO is not equipped to help these people, they're not," she said.

We have reached out to the DEO for a response and we are waiting to hear back.

That said, in past statements to FOX 4, a spokesperson said they are working through glitches to get people their money as quickly as possible. They also told us that they are looking to hire 400 more internal customer service representatives. A DEO spokesperson says they are working to provide us with a timeline for that hiring process.