FT. MYERS, Fla. (PRNewswire) — Farmworkers statewide who have been furloughed during the off-growing season are facing desperation and even homelessness due to obstacles in the new Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) unemployment benefits system. While the DEO is trying to address the issues, farmworkers are facing dire circumstances while they wait.
When farmworkers call the DEO, they are directed to the online system. Many of the farmworkers do not have access to a computer or even smart phone. Those who do are getting kicked out or rejected due to an improper ID or due to being dark-skinned, which is the case with most farmworkers.
Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS) is now aiding farmworkers in these situations through their toll-free hotline, 1-844-44FARMWORKERS (OR 1-844-443-2769). FRLS, a non-profit law firm, launched the line specifically catered to the needs of Florida farmworkers, with a live response team available during extended hours and communication in three languages.
“We want to get the word out that we are here to help,” said Jaffe Pickett, Executive Director of FRLS. “These essential workers are in emergency situations, but they don’t know about the hotline.”
In addition to barriers with unemployment compensation, farmworkers are also contending with a myriad of other legal matters because of Covid-19. Farmworkers having issues with getting food stamps or other public benefits, wage theft, discrimination, human trafficking and physical abuse, should also call the hotline to get free legal assistance.
In Florida, 60% of farmworkers are Hispanic, 20-30% are Haitian and 20% are English-speaking. FRLS FARMWORKERS HOTLINE, has greetings in English, Spanish and Creole and callers are directed for assistance in the language requested. Callers can speak with migrant unit team members in person between 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc. is a non-profit law firm dedicated to providing quality civil legal advice, representation and education for low-income people and communities. In addition to front line services, FRLS provides advice, pro se assistance, legal representation in civil matters as well as community outreach and education and community legal clinics through its seven regional offices throughout Central and South Florida and provides services to farmworkers statewide.
–Florida Rural Legal Services, (PRNewswire)