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The Other Disastrous Government Website: Florida’s Unemployment Portal Still Kicking Users

| November 5, 2013

Florida finds a new way to make life difficult for its unemployed.

Florida finds a new way to make life difficult for its unemployed.

The state’s new, but troubled $68 million unemployment website, intended to provide a more modern, user-friendly method of access for people who receive benefits, may still have system “glitches” for another month or two.

The Department of Economic Opportunity’s “Connect” website continues to provide headaches for some users after going live Oct. 15 and replacing a 30-year-old system that individuals used to claim their weekly benefits, monitor accounts and request information.

Department Director Jesse Panuccio told members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Monday that it could take three months from Oct. 15 for the system put together by Minneapolis-based Deloitte Consulting to fully outperform the prior system.

“We have tried to assure every claimant who has been delayed for technical reasons will not lose benefits,” Panuccio added.

Committee Chairwoman Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said she is willing to give programmers a little more time to get the system performing as expected. Still, she wanted the agency to reduce roadblocks for jobless people as they try to receive checks and get help finding jobs.

“It’s just not good enough to say we’ll pay you back later,” Detert said. “These are folks that are living hand to mouth, they’re waiting for that check. They’re not reassured they’ll get paid later when they have to eat today on very little money.”

Connect has been in the works since 2009.

The department provides up to $275 weekly to more than 200,000 jobless Floridians.

When the problems were first encountered, on the day the system was activated, Panuccio called the problems “minor glitches” that were somewhat anticipated. But for some the frustration grew after they couldn’t get into the call center online or by telephone.

Deloitte Vice Chair U.S. Public Sector Leader Jessica Blume put the full optimization time at between 60 to 90 days, as she said is about average for new sites.

She said part of the problem has been that the new system, in part covered with federal tax dollars, has forced individuals to reset their pin numbers, yet people were not given full instructions on how to reset those numbers. Those who failed to properly reset their numbers would be locked out of the system and have to call the DEO for assistance.

Blume added that the system is now at the point where the average person updating claims without questions shouldn’t be experiencing any difficulty.

Some senators, who have been receiving complaints from constituents, remain displeased about problems with such an expensive system.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said that while he understands the need to replace the older, underperforming system, he wants to see value in the website.

“Just because it’s federal money doesn’t mean we throw it up in the wind and catch what we can,” Hays said. “I want to see that we’re getting our dollars worth.”

The glitches were somewhat anticipated, with the agency asking people to be patient when the new site came online, with advisories that there would likely be longer than usual wait times and some busy signals. But with complaints continuing to roll in, concerns about the system have grown.

The system problems have caused U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to ask for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rep. Irv Slosberg , D-Boca Raton, has asked the Florida House to investigate the system.

The House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to receive a presentation on the website Tuesday.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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10 Responses for “The Other Disastrous Government Website: Florida’s Unemployment Portal Still Kicking Users”

  1. confidential says:

    Looks to me that some elite made 68 millions and for what ? Why did they have to change a 30 years old system that “was working” for something that is putting people that got laid off thru hell and not giving them their benefits? 3 months of wait and what is the unemployed supposed to live off? That is what is taking place in red state Florida to the needy unemployed!! This is orchestrated by the same Sunshine State legislators that lash at Obamacare flaws, and denied Medicaid and food stamps to the poor…while throwing out the window 68 millions in a non working web site.

  2. A.S.F. says:

    I guess the Republican run State of Florida has their own problems with computer programs THEY put up. But…LET’S BLAME ALL OUR PROBLEMS ON OBAMA (pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.)

  3. neverwas says:

    I had the joy of losing my job a couple of weeks back and had to attempt to use the website. The first day I tried and could not sign in/up or get through on the phone. The second day I could not sign in/up or get ahold of anyone on the phone, I went to the CBE office and they said they could send an email to have someone call me from Tallahassee within 24 hours. The third day I could still not sign in/up or get a hold of anyone on the phone. I went to the CBE again and said that I was still waiting for my phone call, they sent out another email on my behalf. On the forth day I could still not sign in/up, I was about to leave the house to go to the CBE again and the phone rang. My pin needed to be reset from when I was unemployed years ago because it was expired (no way to do it online myself). He reset my pin and I was able to file my claim. But due to how screwed up the system currently is I am still waiting to be approved a week and a half after filing my claim.

  4. NYplus says:

    This system is beyond a joke! I was injured at work, then fired and was told by the REemployment agency that I was refused benefits! I spent WEEKS trying to follow the rules but constantly got kicked out of the system or was told that the hours spent filling out form and submitting, was not received. Even contacted the State but in the end was told “Sorry, you have been denied.” My many years of paying into this system has really payed off…..NOT!!! Hard working people are denied benefits when they need it most, while many that have never worked a regular job for any length of time sit back and suck the life out of the tax payers. What’s this country coming to!!

  5. Dusty says:

    I have been unemployed since Sept. 1st and have not received 4-5 weeks of money owed to me. First I was denied, then eligible, claim active then claim inactive. I have never been so frustrated in my life. I need that money because husband not working either. This is bullsh**. They need to hurry up and get their sh** together for all of us who need money.

  6. marty says:

    “But for some the frustration grew after they couldn’t get into the call center online or by telephone…Those who failed to properly reset their numbers would be locked out of the system and have to call the DEO for assistance.”

    And these are FEATURES of the system for Republicans – NOT bugs – No local offices to contact, no Unemployment help at One-Stop centers, everyone funneled to ONE phone number that is completely unable to handle the load. “Everyone busy, call back later” a common message.

    The sooner people stop voting for Republicans and their crooked businessmen like Scott, the better of we all will be.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have been having problems since mid August. I have qualified for full benefits, but to date have only received 4 of the last 16 weeks to which I am supposed to have gotten! Thankfully, I had a meager savings to help me through, but that has
    now been exhausted. How dare they say, ” please be patient!”. Please tell that to my utilities companies and my mortgage company!

  8. Kim H-S says:

    Thank you for your recent story on the inept Florida Unemployment system. I hope the media will continue to press the governor and DEO director Mr. Panuccio on this story. Nothing has changed since the first reports surfaced and Governor Scott’s recent claim that “you can always call in” shows just how ignorant he is as to the extent of the problem. It’s been more than two months since I applied for benefits and I am still awaiting word on whether benefits will be provided. The one time I got through to a live body via telephone, I was told I needed to file two more weeks worth of claims before they could intervene. I complied and have been trying to follow up ever since. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I called 17 times to finally get in the queue at 4:25pm to have my call answered. I remained on hold until 5:45pm and then finally gave up knowing the state staffers probably went home promptly at 5pm. What a disgrace. I have sent two e-mails so far and I try a minimum of 10 times daily to reach someone by phone only to get auto messages saying “critical error,” “we can’t find your record” and “all lines are busy.” My questions to both Mr. Panuccio and Governor Scott: would you care to join me in the unemployment line? Your platitudes are not appreciated by those of us who are affected by this situation. Are you indifferent or just incompetent?

  9. Still Waiting says:

    FIRE Jesse Panuccio!!
    I applied for assistance Sept 2013,
    I was approved first week of Jan 2014.
    No money paid as of 1-17-2014.
    Embarrassing is explaining to your wife and kids that Santa
    Claus could not make it, the bank needed our car and house and we might
    eat some food tomorrow. I called DEO today and some snotty girl
    answered unabled to give me a time on payment, refused multiple times to
    even try to get a supervisor as after every call I have made not one
    supervisor ever called me back. The website shows data that is weeks
    old, says I am in review yet I have a letter mailed via snail mail
    showing I was approved and the website shows I need to apply to work
    force registration yet I have emails from that other group showing I
    have completed it.
    The State of Florida needs huge huge fines and people need fired starting with Jesse Panuccio the Director.
    Poetic justice if they would all get fired at Deolitte and have to deal
    with the crap system they failed at providing.

    The Governor needs to wake up and make this his priority as I have
    been calling each and every television and newspaper in my area.

    We all need to get off our rear ends and start calling reporters and make this the Governors problem.

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