Sen. Nelson calls for investigation of unemployment system

8:27 PM, Jan 8, 2014   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- It's been a nightmare for many Floridians filing for unemployment benefits. The state's new claims website, CONNECT, has been plagued with problems since the Oct. 15 launch.

Now, for a second time, Senator Nelson is calling for a federal investigation into the questions and problems 10 Investigates have been bringing to light for months.

Over the last few months, the DEO has promised Floridians that they're working diligently to fix this failing system, only it still isn't fixed and there are still login problems nearly three months later.

MORE: Florida DEO doubles staff and says unemployment website is failing

Senator Nelson is now asking the state how seriously they are working to help Floridians.

Nelson tells 10 Investigates, "When somebody's down-and-out it's inexcusable that they can't get their legal and just compensation just because the state of Florida website is not working."

Meanwhile, the DEO has recently shifted the blame to the company who designed the website and the company has paid millions of dollars in restitution, and added additional staff.

Governor Rick Scott has also issued the following statement:

"It is a shame that Senator Nelson doesn't give this kind of attention to fixing Washington's failures on Lake Okeechobee's environmental issues, fixing health insurance for those who lost their policies, and fixing the ridiculous flood insurance rate hikes on Floridians. DEO is going to get this fixed.  Deloitte has already been fined millions of dollars and we continue to penalize them $15,000 every day that we do not have a working system.  DEO is now also working with another company to help get this fixed.  This will be fixed. We will absolutely make sure every claimant entitled to benefits gets them."

DEO is going to get this fixed. Deloitte has already been fined millions of dollars and we continue to penalize them $15,000 every day that we do not have a working system.  DEO is now also working with another company to help get this fixed. This will be fixed. We will absolutely make sure every claimant entitled to benefits gets them."

In addition, the DEO spokesperson, Jesse Panuccio has issued this statement:

"To make sure we are effectively serving claimants, DEO requested information from additional vendors, and we have received one response from Capgemini, an industry expert who has successfully implemented systems in other states. They will examine our system and consult on its effectiveness moving forward. We are currently negotiating with them and expect them to be actively engaged by the end of the week. While we remain hopeful that Deloitte will deliver the system Florida was promised, this will further our ability to deliver the fully functional system claimants need and continue to enable us to hold Deloitte accountable."

Below is a copy of the letter Senator Bill Nelson sent to the U.S. Department of Labor:

United States Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

BILL NELSON

FLORIDA

January 7, 2014

Honorable Thomas E. Perez, Secretary

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Ave, NW

Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Secretary Thomas E. Perez:

In late October, I wrote to you and asked that your department investigate the circumstances surrounding the roll out of Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity's new online unemployment claims system.  I made this request after it had been widely reported that an untold number of Floridians were having trouble applying for unemployment benefits because of problems plaguing the governor's and state's new $63 million economic opportunity website.

In response to that request you stated that, according to the state's Department of Economic Opportunity, unresolved issues with the website "will be fixed and the system stabilized by mid to late December."

You also noted, "should we learn any additional information suggesting that the Florida's issues are not being resolved, we will work with DEO to ensure the state is employing methods of administration that result in unemployment benefits being paid when due."

But, according to recent a report in The Tampa Bay Times and today's front-page story in the New York Times, the problems people in Florida are facing have not yet been fully resolved.

In light of these reports, I now request that you look further into whether the state is doing everything it can to meet the needs of all Floridians eligible to receive unemployment benefits in a timely manner.  Specifically, I ask that you investigate whether the Department of Economic Opportunity is currently in compliance with section 303(a)(1) of the Social Security Act and associated Department regulations requiring states to timely pay unemployment compensation "when due," and, if not, what actions the Department can take to ensure timely payment of claims due to Floridians.

Any continuing problems in processing unemployment claims only delays financial help to those who need it most due to misfortune.  Therefore, I would appreciate hearing back from you by Jan 14.  

Sincerely,
Bill Nelson

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