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Heard On Sundial: Unemployment Benefits, Scammers and the Pandemic, and 'Paper Children' Documentary

AP Photo
Chris O'Meara
Protestors wave signs at Gov. Ron DeSantis as he and Vice President Mike Pence visit Orlando on May 20, 2020. DeSantis has called the state's unemployment filing system a jalopy while defending his efforts to fix it.

On this Wednesday, July 22, episode of Sundial:


Florida Unemployment Benefits

Over the past four months, 1.7 million Floridians have been receiving unemployment benefits from the federal government through the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package passed in late March. The assistance program has given $600 a week to Americans out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, funding for the CARES Act is set to expire Saturday, leaving millions of unemployed Floridians scrambling for help. The Senate is meeting in Washington D.C. this week to negotiate the details of a second stimulus package called the HEROES Act


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“[Democrats and Republicans] are really all over the map,” said Kirby Wilson, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, based in the Tallahassee bureau. “Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wants a compromise worked out this week, but very few are optimistic that that’s going to happen. The timeline is looking more like August.”


We spoke with Wilson about the future for state and federal unemployment assistance.

Scammers Taking Advantage of the Pandemic

Scammers have been exploiting the pandemic as an opportunity to steal personal information. Posing as contact tracers and health insurance companies, scammers are threatening to take away health benefits if their victims don’t comply. Adding to the confusion, many phone companies are flagging the state’s legitimate program for contact tracing, through the Florida Department of Health, as scammers. 


“The most common scheme is somebody calling you and saying they’re from Medicare. And then they’ll have a hook, like ‘I have a COVID essentials kit for you. I need to verify your information so you can get extra coverage,'” said Nenette Day, Assistant Special Agent in Charge at the Department of Health and Human Services. She is also the director of the federal healthcare, fraud, and abuse hotline.


We spoke with Day about how to distinguish real contact tracing calls from fake ones and what to do once you have identified a scam.


Children Seeking Asylum in South Florida

The United States has a history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into our borders. Many of those fleeing violence in Latin America come to South Florida where they often have family and can find connections to support them.

However, policies have changed in recent years. In 2019, America accepted some 30,000 refugees, a record low, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The new YouTube Originals documentary film "Paper Children" examines the complicated legal process for those seeking asylum in the United States. It follows four children who escaped gang violence in Honduras and travelled to family in Miami. 


The documentary film "Paper Children" follows the story of four Honduran children seeking asylum in the United States. In the photo is Jan (whose last name we are not using to protect his identity) at a soccer match.

“The biggest assumption that people have is that asylum is a system that people are just figuring out to cheat,” said Alexandra Codina, the film’s director. “Ironically, exactly what people most question about the system, is what the system most values. You have to perform in a way. We spoke with Codina about her documentary and the unaccompanied children seeking refuge in the United States.

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.