By Ty Russell

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Housekeepers, servers and cooks left signs at the Hialeah office of the Florida house speaker, calling for their unemployment claims to be processed and see an increase in the weekly cap.

“I feel like the system is designed and we feel it’s rigged against the working class people,” Rick Sanchez said.

Sanchez is a bellman at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. He was laid off because of an order to close. He’s one of the recent 800,000 jobless claims in Florida from the COVID-19 crisis.

“At least my wife is getting 50% of her salary. Thank God, I just got my unemployment check the other day,” Sanchez said.

Many have been out of work for weeks. Some have yet to see a dime from the state’s $275 weekly max or the federal government’s $600 weekly cap in unemployment.

“Some people are understanding and some are not. So, bills have to get paid. We paid our unemployment and we need it now,” Elise Eckstein said.

Unite Here represents 7,000 South Florida workers who mostly aren’t going home with big salaries, such as housekeepers, servers, bartenders and cooks, to name a few.

“They call you for the bills. We don’t have money to pay,” said Joseph Manes, a cook.

On Sunday, leadership called on the state to increase the weekly cap and fix the ongoing issues that have been problems for years, like simply logging in the system.

They led a caravan of workers to Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva’s office in Hialeah.

“Virtually none of our members have received unemployment benefits,” said Wendi Walsh with Unite Here Local 355.

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he waived several requirements for filing unemployment claims.

He also added servers and workers and partnered with FedEx to print and mail paper claims.

But there’s still a backlog for people dealing with issues like being laid off, furloughed or those who’ve had their hours reduced.

“This is a desperate crisis for money to feed families, to buy lifesaving prescription drugs,” said Walsh.

Jobless claims are expected to continue to rise, just like the unemployment rate, which was up in Florida from 2.8% to 4.3% in March.

Nationally, the rate is up from 3.5% in February to 4.4% the next month.

For Sanchez, he and his coworkers aren’t just focused on money, but also their health.

“I love my job, but when they call us back to work, are we going to be safe?” he said.

CBS4’s Ty Russell emailed and called the Florida Department of Management Services and the house speaker, but they have yet to respond.

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Ty Russell

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