State Unemployment Problems Persist As Federal Benefits Run Out

Florida's unemployment website is still having problems, as federal unemployment benefits for thousands of Floridians expire.

Florida’s unemployment website is still having problems, as federal unemployment benefits for thousands of Floridians expire.

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Florida’s new unemployment website–CONNECT—has been riddled with problems since it launched two months ago. Since then, there hasn’t been much improvement and the call centers created to help people who can’t navigate the website have also been problematic.  On top of all that, thousands of Floridians will lose their federal unemployment benefits by the start of the New Year.

Florida’s new $63 million unemployment website has been generating a lot of complaints since it launched on Oct. 15 of this year.

According to The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, “because of a 2011 law passed by the Legislature, recipients must register online, a requirement that federal officials this year found violated the civil rights of the unemployed.”

Regardless, state officials pressed on and the website has been struggling to provide timely benefits to Florida’s unemployed residents.

The Times/Herald reported this week:

With the CONNECT launch addled with technical glitches, receiving benefits on time was made impossible for many. Thousands of complaints flooded the offices of Gov. Rick Scott, state lawmakers and officials in the Department of Economic Opportunity overseeing the website. On Thursday, Scott’s 2014 challenger for governor, Charlie Crist, joined U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton in calling for an investigation.

“The way CONNECT has been handled is pretty cold and callous,” Crist said. “These are people who are looking for work, and this is when they need their government the most. That they can’t get any answers is unconscionable.”

When asked to comment on Crist’s statement, the governor’s office referred reporters to a Wednesday statement by the DEO that disclosed that the contractor, Deloitte Consulting, paid back $1.5 million in financial restitution to the state.

“I will not rest until our contractor, Deloitte Consulting, has delivered the system Floridians were promised,” said DEO executive director Jesse Panuccio.

Still, problems persist. Over the weekend, technicians were called in to fix 16 issues. Last Tuesday night, technicians fixed another 22.

Just recently, the DEO announced it was hiring more staff to help with the unemployment system.

According to FOX 4:

[The] Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has announced its hiring of 192 temporary staff members in the Reemployment Assistance program.  The office has been bombarded with claimants who can’t receive their unemployment benefits since DEO launched a $63 million new unemployment website, called CONNECT, Oct. 15.

DEO spokeswoman Jessica Sims said some of the new hires will staff the call center while others will work in the remaining areas of the program.

Many users have voiced frustration over busy lines and automated messages when they call into the call center.

Deloitte Consulting, the contractor hired to build the website, has until Friday, Dec. 20, to fix all remaining technical glitches.  If problems aren’t resolved by then, the company will face a daily fine of $15,000 for every day that issues remain.

The problems with the state errors are likely going to be exacerbated as thousands of Floridians receiving federal unemployment assistance lose their benefits.

The Florida Current reported:

A federal budget deal passed by Congress last week did not include an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, meaning 75,000 jobless workers in Florida will stop receiving benefits Dec. 28 if no further action is taken.

The imminent end of benefits is the latest burden for those seeking unemployment checks in Florida.

As Gov. Rick Scott and fellow Republican lawmakers have reduced weeks of state benefits and added work search and skills test requirements as conditions of receiving benefits in recent years, unions and workers’ rights groups have grown more vocal about the difficulty of pulling down jobless benefits in Florida.

Florida Legal Services also told the Current that they have seen a spike in claimants reaching out to them for help since CONNECT launched.

A month ago, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked federal officials to launch a federal investigation into Florida’s sputtering unemployment program.

A couple of years ago, state lawmakers slashed unemployment benefits in Florida. The reduction, which was signed into law by Scott, cut maximum state benefits to 23 weeks from 26 when the jobless rate is 10.5 percent or higher.

Because of the 2011 law, once unemployment numbers decrease, so would the maximum amount of time someone can stay on unemployment. If unemployment dips as low as 5 percent, Floridians can only get benefits for up to 12 weeks.

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9 Responses to “State Unemployment Problems Persist As Federal Benefits Run Out”

  1. Tracy Brown says:

    I have been waiting 10 weeks for payment on my request for benefits. I have 2 boys 12 & 10 who will not have a Merry Christmas because of the failure of the Connect system. I call everyday 5 times a day and can never get through to get some answers. If anyone in the Palm Beach Gardens area has a job opening for a motivated single mother – please contact me. My heart is breaking for my boys who will not have a Christmas for the first time in their lives.


  2. Misty Tothy says:

    It took my spouse three months to get his benefits; it kept resetting. He would get someone on the phone and they would say everything is fine. He would wait and wait for a check, call again and would be told something was missing. He would literally do nothing and it would somehow magically appear (for example, he was told they did not get his resume, he went over the phone with a rep, they said, “Oh, I see your resume, did you just upload it?” He emphatically replied “NO!” So, that put him off another week. This type of thing went on for three months and he only started getting benefits after the new website went up. Now, he is going to be denied the rest that he paid into, if needed.

  3. Randy says:

    The WHOLE system is a joke! They base their unemployment number on the amount of people logging in to the system, well, if the VAST Majority aren’t able to log in and/or submit their claim, how is it possible to figure out the accurate unemployment numbers? How? If the ONLY form of communication is through this wonderful new CONNECT, and nobody EVER answers the phone (wouldn’t do ANY good even if they did truthfully), HOW is it is it possible to state what the unemployment numbers are? HOW? Does ANYONE truly believe the numbers presented? Furthermore, with Dec. 28, 2013 being when unemployment ends it’s likely for the system to be kept unoperable until after that date so that way the State of Florida can save themselves so much money rather than helping the ones that the whole system was supposed to be put in place for. Oh, and $63,000,000 for a website? Are you serious? Any good coder could and would’ve built that site for less than a million, LESS than a million…hell, 1% of that which’s $630,000 . Where did all the rest of the money go is what I’m wondering because anyone who has a single ounce of intelligence knows damn well a site doesn’t cost no $63 Million Dollars !! I know Numerous coders who could do a site so much better at a rate of $100/hr , and in all reality that’d be a fraction of the $630,000 !! One of the BIGGEST scams goin on right now is the unemployment system and the Vast Majority only know what the media presents to them which’s terribly sad. VeryVERY Sad.

  4. Lenni says:

    Seven of my payments are being held. I received an e-mail from them stating that I needed to respond within three days, and when I reaponded I got an undeliverable due to their server message back. I faxed and contacted the information and my complaints through the main website, finally got a call from a rep saying that he fixed the issue on my clqim and that I should have my funds by Monday, December 23rd.
    I went back online today to check and my claim says DISQUALIFIED again becquse of the same INCORRECT INFORMATION they’d put in the first time, which is also the same information the rep told me he fixed yesterday.
    My bills are sitting unpaid, my car is running out of gas, my pantry is going bare, how am I supposed to continue going job hunting and going on interviews paying for parking, and better yet, just simply EATING, if my funds are being held over foolish mistakes and a jacked-up system?
    And what of this news that as od the 28th extended payments will cease? Are they planning to not pay me the group of payments they are currently messing up?
    Do better! We need our “re-employment” funds so that we CAN become re-employed and so that we can feed our children and put gas in and pay insurance on the vehicles that will get is back and forth from the jobs we are trying to get!

  5. Lenni says:

    Oh, and the telephone numbers they have available to call them… don’t work. An automated message comes on everytime and says, “we are experiencing high call volume, please try your call again later.” and then it DISCONNECTS THE CALL. Bogus.

  6. Lenni says:

    Pardon my typos. Seems as though fast typing on a smart phone isn’t like fast typing on a computer keyboard.

  7. Randy says:

    Re: Lenni’s Comments (Facts)…Go to this Facebook Page ( ) and copy/paste EVERYTHING you just put here. It’s definitely not FL who put this site up. Just saw the news and it said unemployment level in Florida has declined down to 6.2% which is bulls**t !! How can you physically record accurate numbers when you have a system that people are not able to use to document what the REAL reality is?? You can’t!!

  8. Lenni says:


    It has been posted. Thank you for letting me know about that fb page, too.

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