ORLANDO, Fla. — With President Donald Trump signing the $900 billion COVID-19 Relief bill late Sunday night, an estimated 20 million Americans will likely receive some share of extended unemployment benefits. 

What You Need To Know

  • President Trump signed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill into law Sunday night

  • His delay in signing the bill means people on unemployment will miss one week of payments

  • The bill will extend unemployment benefits until March

For many Florida families, the delayed benefits are already coming too late as they struggle to keep up. 

“I try to walk every morning to get my spirit up and I’m just drained,” said Christie Benventi of Osceola County. 

Three days before Christmas her landlord posted an eviction warning on Benventi’s front door. 

Benventi and her son avoided eviction due to the goodwill of strangers and a local state representative, and unemployment advocate who stepped up to cover December’s rent. 

“It was a miracle for me and my son, we had no gifts under the tree, but the miracle was having a roof over my head for me and my child,” Benventi said. “Now I have to worry about January.”

Having long run out of unemployment benefits, Benventi is now drowning in bills piling up once again. Her home is in desperate need of repairs and Monday she says she got a warning that her electricity would soon be turned off without payment. 

“It’s very stressful,” Benventi said. 

She shares a small mobile unit with her 16 year old son. Both have had COVID-19 and Benventi said her health conditions have led her in and out of the hospital in recent months. 

“I just want to break down, but I think about my son to lift my spirit up,” Benventi said. 

More than 4 million Floridians have applied for unemployment benefits in Florida since March, with half of those qualifying for benefits. 

Like others, Benventi is relying on extended federal unemployment benefits to simply survive the next few months. 

The recent $900 COVID-19 relief bill provides up to $300 per week for up to 11 weeks (March 14, 2021), however with President Trump delaying signing the bill, families have now lost one week of benefits. 

That lost week could not come at a worse time for many as it is now near the start of a new month when bills and rent are due. 

Benventi said adding stress and anxiety to the whole ordeal is feeling overlooked by politicians. 

“They need to hear peoples’ voices because we all need to be heard,” she said. 

“Absolutely ignored, I don’t think they care at all, they don’t lose any sleep over us,” said Jeanne Tsoulas. 

Tsoulas eventually became unemployed when the convention/trade show company she worked for shuttered. 

Leaving a dream job she hoped to retire from, Tsoulas instead was forced to look for work elsewhere while relying on unemployment assistance in the meantime. 

Not having any luck finding a new job, Tsoulas said she too is relying on extended federal benefits to help her family make end’s meet. 

“If we lose unemployment, we’re dead, we’re screwed, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. 

Her husband’s Social Security income can help keep a roof over their head, for now. Tapping out unemployment benefits, Tsoulas and her husband have cut where they could, on groceries, insurance coverage, even their prescriptions. 

Tsoulas is now rationing her blood pressure medication and foregoing other prescriptions because they can’t afford it. 

“I know I shouldn’t do it and it’s dangerous, but it’s, ‘Do I want to have a stroke, or keep my blood pressure low?'” Tsoulas said. 

Tsoulas and Benventi say politicians in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. have ignored the struggles of countless families begging for help to survive. 

Both give warning that even the newest congressional deal may not be enough. 

The recent $900 billion COVID-19 relief package extends unemployment benefits until March, provides stimulus funding, extends eviction protections, and funds housing and food assistance programs. 

The version passed and signed this weekend by Trump is a whittled version first passed this Summer by the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Tsoulas said overlooked in the partisan bill making is the direct struggles of so many families. 

“There’s a lot more of us out here struggling than them, and I don’t think they care, I really don’t think they care,” she said.