Long-hauler says locked DEO account could cost her healthcare

Posted at 10:34 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 23:02:49-04

CAPE CORAL, FLA — Wazeefa Khan is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

"If I get sick the next time around, then I'm done," she said.

The first time around, she was sick with the virus for months.

"And then I was getting worse and worse and worse I couldn't walk and my breathing was getting worse," she said.

She finally tested negative for COVID-19 on New Year's Day.

But she says her body took a beating and she's been left with a host of medical issues, such as a weakened heart, nerve damage, and several autoimmune diseases.

It's an impact she's felt physically and financially since she was also let go from her job while recovering.

"I can get my job back tomorrow if I need it. But I am not cleared to go back to work," she said.

Unemployment payments from the state Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) were helping her to pick up the slack in the meantime.

But recently, Khan says she was locked out of her account.

"I have $11,000 sitting there, that's unused that I have not been paid," she said.

And she says she's been struggling to get answers.

"And there's no help, nobody answers the phone," said Khan.

It's a frustration that another woman in Florida, Teresa Rowland, says she understands after going months without her payments.

"The DEO just needs to, they just need to straighten up everything," she said, "They stopped in April, I guess because the DEO said I had to verify my identity."

But like Khan, Rowland says she has already verified her identity and her account is still locked.

And she says without that money, she and her family could face major consequences.

"The landlord has been working with me but I don't know how much longer I can keep telling her it's going to be next week because they're taking so long to unlock this stuff," said Rowland.

For Khan, she says the lack of unemployment at a time when she cannot work could impact her health.

"I need my unemployment, I need my health insurance. Without health insurance, I can't survive this," said Khan.

The DEO tells FOX 4 it's likely that these accounts were locked following a recent data breach.

A spokesperson also says that they've tried to reach out to these two women via phone and email to help fix the problem. When we asked for copies of that alleged email correspondence, we were told that legally they couldn't share them with me.

A major complaint that a lot of folks in the state have about the DEO is that it's hard to get someone on the phone. Those concerns were amplified after the department recently ended its contract with Titan Technologies, a company that provided dozens of customer representatives to the state.

The DEO has since promised to hire more than 435 internal customer service reps to help pick up the slack. As of tonight, they claim that they've filled at least 276 of those positions and are looking to hire at least 159 more.

If interested, you can apply for one of those positions by clicking here.

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