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Florida's DEO admits ongoing issues with unemployment benefits website

An expensive government website that failed to launch properly, despite years of preparation. Frustrated users who will be penalized if they can't log on in time. Questions about how transparent those responsible for the website are.

No, this isn’t the troubled debut of the HealthCare.gov site that is dominating cable news these days.

It’s Gov. Rick Scott’s roll out of Florida’s new $63 million unemployment benefits website. Launched last week and initially called a success by a Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman, it’s becoming increasingly evident that it’s having Obamacare-esque problems of its own.

On Wednesday, the Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees the state’s processing of claims for an average of 235,000 recipients, issued its most detailed acknowledgment yet that all is not well with the new website.

“Last week, the new system, CONNECT, was launched, and while tens of thousands of claims are being properly processed within the new system, the initial phase of the update has also caused delays for many users,” said an e-mail from the DEO late Wednesday. “DEO sincerely regrets any delays or frustration experienced by claimants and we are working around-the-clock with program experts from (project contractor) Deloitte to fix technical problems as they arise.”

No numbers are kept on just how many people have tried and failed to process their claims, so it’s not clear what to make of the 130,000 people who did submit claims in the past seven days, according to the DEO. Before the launch, the state didn’t process any claims between Oct. 9 and Oct. 14. Since claims are typically processed every two weeks, shouldn’t that number be higher? Officials aren’t providing much context these days, and have done much to confuse the media by not releasing all relevant information.

But on Wednesday, the DEO announced that it is expanding hours this week at the call centers, where they have 250 employees manning the phones for people unable to get through on the web. The DEO is adding 15 hours per week so it will now be operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. M-F, and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The call center will also now be working on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The expansion is necessary considering the volume.

DEO Spokeswoman Jessica Sims said that between Tuesday and Saturday of last week, 1,124,350 calls were made to the state’s 1-800 help line. Of those calls, 47,619 were handled by an operator, a rate of about 4.2 percent.

True, some of those calling might have had their questions answered by automated messages in the menu. Or, as Sims pointed out, calls made include “repeat dialing by single caller.”

Lee Phelps of Tampa is one of those repeat dialers. Why does he keep calling back?

Because, he says in an email, he has yet to get his claim for benefits processed on the new website or talk to a human being.

“Today is the fifth day that I have been unable to talk to anyone or even get through the phone line,” Phelps said. “Though once I was put on automated hold for 30 minutes then dropped.”

Comments

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Pat

Utter BS!

Bob

When unemployment is issued, some pundits say that it is a hand out for lazy people. When the contracts are given out at $63 million dollars to a company that can not even manage a website, it is called "Business."
Is this what Rick Smith was elected to do?
Who is really getting the Hand out? The State of Florida and anyone responsible for this debacle ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Kyla

I started my claim in September 3 weeks before the shut down. I've been claiming weeks and have not received any benefits at all. When I called the customer care center I was told that there was a judification hold. I'm trying to understand why, when first of all I told the case worker I quit that job to go work for the company that layed me off so wat response are we waiting for. Then I got a job offer but haven't gotten a start date so I didn't look for work for a week, guess what there was a hold for that also even though the system asked for reasons why. I explained to the rep that certain jobs require that you come in to fill out the applications, please tell how can I get there without any funds to first off get on the city bus?? All she could say is search by emails..wtf really.

Renee

I have not been able to claim weeks either since October 21 2013. I was able at that time to claim one week, then the system shut down and said come back next week to claim that week. Went back on October 28, 2013 no weeks in the system. Called the 1-800 number at 7am, yes folks start calling that early, after the 3 min hold, which turned into 25 mins they told me my weeks got lost and someone would call me when they were put back on my account. I've now been waiting over a week...this is going to cost me car issues, phone issues, electric issues, water issues, and rent issues....Go back to the old system...at least it WORKED!!!!!

Aaron Sedelmeyer

What time does the system start processing claims during the day? Did they change that as well? It used to be down between 1-2 PM EST for that...I don't see any indication that it is crunching numbers. I was allowed to log in and claim my weeks on EUC Tier 1, but I have not received any payment as of yet. Normally, on the old Site, I would see a payment by now, no later than 2:00 PM EST. Is this part of the issue, that payments are not processed on time like they were before?


Lisa

This system is horable - I have not been able to talk to a live person is weeks. I need resolution on my appeal which shows on the website as being resolved but does not tell what the outcome is... Unemplyment owes me back pay of $1500 ... Due to their error this should have been resolved over a month ago. I am now back to work THANK GOD with no help from them. How someone is suppose to live on $275 a week is beyond me and then they dont want to pay what is owed to you. SHAME ON YOU!!!

Lori

I have been trying for 6 weeks. Unemployment shows I'm getting additional funds of $803 from an outside company (which I'm not) therefore I haven't been paid. They owe me over $2k and I have no income coming in. Called govenor Scott's office twice and got no response. I have like all of you paid into unemployment for years and I am entitled to my benefits this is just WRONG!

Thomas Salkiewicz

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but doesn’t it seem as though the process is designed to cause the applicants to give up claiming benefits after weeks and weeks of frustration?

Annette

I've been without my benefits for an entire month. Numerous phone calls, 2 different calls that I actually spoke to a live person with no success. They say that the error would be corrected on the website within 48 hours, yeah right! Frustrated is not the word, this so unfair to the tax paying citizens, we get to do without because they can't get it right! The old site would perfectly, why fix something that isn't broken?

David K.

PINK SLIP RICK I HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE. FOR THIS FIASCO!!!

Yesenia

All I can say is that this new system is a joke. I've been calling over a month and still no benefits. I've spoken to like three different customer service reps and no solution. They're telling me because I did the work registration not on the same day that I filed for unemployment so now my benefits are delayed. They paid me for the first week and then completely stop paying me. When I asked them why did they pay me that first week since my benefits were on hold, they're telling me it was a mistake. It's incredible how this government works. I have bills to pay and two kids to maintain. Plus being a single mother doesn't make it any easier. Have some consideration please.

K

I am now on week 6 of my own piece of Scott's total inept f*** head of person's $63m dollar scam. I had my REA appointment scheduled at Work Force One for Dec. 3 only to get a call the morning of from the rocket scientist counselor saying she needed to cancel because of a water main brake by the building and they were leaving early. I should call on Monday to reschedule. Fine. Come Monday called her directly and get her VM, leaving a message. No response after couple of days so call again VM. The next week I go to claim my weeks and the fun begins! My payments are on HOLD due to missing my REA appointment. So I spend money, that needs to go towards bills, to get enough gas to get to Work Force so I can get this taken care of right away... yea ok. When I finally get to talk to her she apologizes and says "I don't know how this could have happened. I thought I got back to everyone." She then told me there isn't much she can do because it is in adjudication. However, she is so sorry. She will put in her notes for the adjudicator explaining what happened. "It should be cleared up by the end of the week." I explain how much I am counting on that money rent, bills etc. Whatever, it's like pleading your case to a Parrot. All she can say is I understand, I understand...

Now, over a month later, countless hours calling the DEO line, three email requests for contact from a non existent adjudicator, my last loan for rent and power from my already tapped family members, cable and cell phone in collections, car insurance cancelled... I have just claimed my 5th and 6th week...which are - yep on f***ing HOLD!

I SEE NO END TO THIS. I really hope my 12,000 resumes and phone calls gets me some work in the next week.

Nickii

Does anyone know if they are hiring? They could sure use the help.

Carol

I have been owed 2 weeks of payments since October 5th, and also October 26th which still has not been paid. It has been nearly 2 months now. All I get is it's being worked on, they can't give me a time frame of when I will receive any money. I've called numerous times with the same answers, Emails have been sent to the accounting department. Well I'm sorry but emails don't put gas in my car, or food on my table or pay my past due bills. I work part time so I don't make much money and I depend on this money to get by. The system sucks. The system screwed up my claim. It wasn't even my fault. Don't know why they couldn't have left it in the old system, at least I got paid within a day or 2 after I called. Now it's been 2 months and nothing has been done.

Debbie

I am so frustrated, filed a claim November 4th and still cannot claim my weeks, it is asking me to enter my employer even though I said I have not worked, so I cannot by pass this page. I have spoken to employment a numerous times, and they keep sending in tickets to Deloitte, the company that made this computer program, but no fix yet. Everyone should start calling the programmers, their number is Phone: +1 850 521 4800 and blow up their phones. And contact the governors office too. I am really fed up and it is really starting to affect me. I realize it is not the people on the unemployment phone problem, they just take phone calls, and one woman told me that cannot update any info like they could on the old system. Don't know why they are even there. I do know that the stress is giving me really bad headaches. Blow up the governor's phone and the computer programmer, maybe they will get sick of the calls and do something. Thinking I probably shouldn't use the word blow up, but I don't mean it literally, just mean to keep calling......

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