ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — State leaders cut off extended federal unemployment benefits last week to try to get more people working again.

But that's been hard on people like Melissa Rodriguez. “I was involved with a car accident in January,” she says.

What You Need To Know

  • It's too early to tell if unemployment cuts will drive applicants, job centers say

  • Career Source officials say they expect to see more people seeking work

  • Requirements to report job searches again boosted traffic at job centers

  • Some people who are not seeking work now say they face challenges

That accident put Rodriguez in a wheelchair, and she says it made her unable to work. 

“It’s very, very frustrating to try to get the help that we need as citizens and we’re not getting it,” she says. 

Florida joined 23 other states last week in cutting off $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits, a state initiative to help business owners who say they’re struggling to find enough workers. 

Rodriguez says she understands that some people who aren’t working should be. But in her case, she still can’t go back. 

“Not everyone can be entitled to that, but it’s unfair to take it out completely, knowing that there’s still some of us out here that do need the help,” she says. 

It’s too early to tell if cutting off the federal benefits have spurred more people to apply for jobs, officials at employment centers like Career Source Central Florida say.

But Nilda Blanco, a senior director with Career Source, says they definitely saw a surge of people coming to look for jobs when the state let the work search waiver expire in May. In order to get benefits, people have to show that they’re applying for five jobs a week. 

“We’ve seen a 48% increase in the last 4 weeks, so we’ve served about 9,800 new customers in this last quarter,” Blanco says. 

In time, the federal benefits cutoff will have a similar effect on job seekers, she says.

“So we anticipate we’re gonna see more traffic,” she says. 

But Rodriguez says the elimination of the extra benefit has just made life in 2021 that much harder. 

“I feel like I’m just running out of options,” Rodriguez says. 

Career Source will hold a large virtual hiring event including many different employers from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday. Individuals who are interested can register for it on the event site