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Scott's DEO not disclosing all that has gone wrong with $63-million jobless benefits site

A memo obtained Friday by Naked Politics instructs state employees how to deal with problems afflicting the Florida’s new $63 million unemployment benefits website.

"The system should become more stable as we daily progress as changes/fixes are being moved into production on a regular basis. It is important that we do not convey the wrong message to the public, so please do not advise claimants that the system is down unless official word from management is received." (Bold added for emphasis).

Emailed Friday to Department of Economic Opportunity offices across the state, the memo raises obvious and troubling questions.

What is the “wrong” message? More importantly, what is the “right” message? And is this suggesting that the site has indeed been down, which officials have denied since CONNECT debuted on Tuesday? When asked late Friday for comment, DEO Spokeswoman Monica Russell repeated that the system has not been down.

“If you read that message, it clearly says that we are constantly instituting updates to the system as we are alerted to issues claimants may be encountering,” Russell said in an e-mail. “The system was never down, so it would have been a ‘wrong message’ to the public to say that it was.’”

On the face of it, however, the memo supports a strong impression made this week by DEO officials that Florida hasn’t been forthcoming in disclosing  the extent of problems with CONNECT and its vendor, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

All week, DEO officials have insisted that this investment in the new website, CONNECT, has been a success. They’ve released limited information that they say confirms the website is handling the demands of a system with 235,000 claimants. But they have yet to provide how many claimants have failed or been delayed in filing, or how many calls are being made to state help centers.

On Wednesday, Naked Politics asked DEO if Deloitte had been put on notice for non-performance. The response?

“In design, it was realized it was going to take longer meet (sic) the requirements and the project was extended 10 months as a result of a corrective action plan at no additional costs to the agency, but still within the projected four year time frame anticipated by the feasibility study,” said a DEO spokeswoman Jessica Sims.

Sims failed to disclose a June 15, 2012 letter from the DEO’s project manager, Tom McCullion, to John Hugill, principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP. The purpose of the letter is stated at the top: “Notice of Intent to Terminate.”

The letter stated that Deloitte’s "demonstrated inability to implement the solution in other jurisdictions has undermined the DEO's confidence that Deloitte will successfully complete the implementation in Florida...it now appears that the DEO is being asked to fund a software development project with limited prospects for success."

Also, the letter mentions that the "go-live" date of October 2013 is later than "the parties bargained for."

Asked about this letter, Sims replied in an e-mail:

"More than a year ago, Deloitte was not meeting the contractual deliverables before the design for CONNECT was complete. DEO took action with intent to terminate the contract with cause. However, it had been determined by several consulting firms that our old system was at serious risk of failure and engaging in another procurement process would further delay the implementation date so a Corrective Action Plan was instituted. Deloitte agreed to pay financial restitution and abide by the contractual performance conditions. Deloitte also changed their project management team and added additional staff to the project site. The project has been rigorously monitored by DEO, external auditors and consultants specializing in systems implementation. With Deloitte meeting the contractual requirements of the design, development, and testing phase gates, it was recommended by the Executive Steering Committee, that had guided the project since inception, that CONNECT be launched."

Asked why she didn’t provide this information Wednesday, or disclose the letter, Sims didn’t reply.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Labor have already alleged that Gov. Rick Scott's administration is violating civil rights by requiring the recipients to file claims online. Because of furloughs from the government shutdown, it’s unclear how federal officials are monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, claimants across the state have been contacting Naked Politics about problems they are encountering.

“It’s been a disaster,” said Dave Jones, a former defense contractor in Bradenton who has been out of work for more than a year. “Why did the state put out such a horrible piece of software. It doesn’t work, and I’ve tried calling probably 100 times, and I just can’t get any help.”

Comments

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FLMom

Those moochers don't deserve unemployment benefits anyway. They just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

ForProfitGovernment

I'm sure somebody will hire people who have no permanent address. Somebody needs to hang you with some bootstraps.

Tallahassee Insider

Fire Jessica Sims and Monica Russell. Then fire the contractors too. Someone has a memo where Rick Scott wanted this to fail because he doesn't want to support the unemployed. Where is that memo?

lola

FYI FLORIDA mom, these benefits are not paid for with tax dollars, its covered by unemployment tax in payroll. Obviously you been too busy pushing out babies to et tax deductions tie down your man to kow thw law

Ellie Sawyer

The system simply doesn't work; none of the data migrated over, so it shows "O" balances due, and does not show recent claim/payment history. When you call in, the automated system says "our computers cannot retrieve your information," and then you are subsequently disconnected due to a "high call volume." In essence, you cannot speak with anybody, and you cannot process a claim. And to FLMom: some of us are ALSO moms that had amazing jobs that were hit hard with layoffs. Fortunately, this is my last week to claim, as I found a position -- 10 weeks ahead of the DEO's schedule of my benefits running out. Hardly a mooch! Karma has no deadline, my friend. Just saying.

Kimberly

The site might not be "down" with regard to logging in and being able to see a few bits of information - but with regard to actually being able to claim our weeks or receive our benefits, it might as well be down. I was unable to claim for week ending 10/12/2013, my Tier II 2012 benefit balance of approx. $1980 is not showing anywhere - I received a $2 benefit payment this past Friday, rather than the $2 payment for week end 10/5 (last monies available for my current claim) plus $275 for week ending 10/12/13 (beginning Tier II for 2012), which is exactly what I should have received and what I was told in writing by a representative in Tallahassee prior to the new system going live. Not being able to claim for week ending 10/12/13, I received a $2.00 benefit check? I cannot eat this week, my dog cannot eat this week, I cannot pay my utility bills.

I have numb fingers for calling for 5-8 hours a day, every day since Tuesday - roll out day, and receiving voice activated messages "we're sorry, all agents are assisting other callers, please try your call again later." The system then had a message that I will be able to claim benefits for week ending 10/13/13 through 11/7/13. First of all, that makes NO sense. Week ends on Saturdays, the 13th is a Sunday and the 7th is a Thursday. Furthermore, not only does it make no sense, but again, there are NO links to actually claim weeks. Then (as I log on and off several times per day each day), I saw a notice that I had to reapply for extended benefits, so I did so, which made that message go away. Then I saw a message that finally showed me that my Tier II 2012 extension was kicking in, though it gave no dates or claiming weeks ability - but then upon logging back in again, that message was gone and so was that claim/Tier - now showing me a 2013 Tier I extension, when the department still owes me nearly $2000 for my Tier II 2012 claim.

The unemployed in FL have been hurt more than any other state. Lies have been told over and over again about the unemployment rate going down, as it is 100% untrue. The ONLY reason it has gone down, is because more and more people have exhausted their extensions and can no longer claim benefits - they are now unemployed and with no income coming in at all, losing everything, selling everything. Additionally, their skills review test also caused MANY large numbers of people not to qualify for benefits, as even I, an executive assistant with over 30 years of experience, 100+ wpm typing and intense skill and experience barely made it through the test - and I was lucky enough to do so from home. Others that don't have internet access at home, because they can't afford it (which I won't be able to much longer either) have to rely on the help of the library, which disconnects you after an hour and many large number of people are finding the skills review test is taking them longer than that. So the unemployment rate has NOT gone down in FL - just the people allowed to collect benefits. We're DROWNING out here, we can't find work, we can't find responses to our resumes, we can't get interviews - and all we have to rely on for a hollowed out existence that is causing great stress, worry, stress and anxiety are our unemployment benefits and now we're not even getting them, due to an online system that is ABSOLUTELY NOT WORKING.

It is now 10/19/13 and for the entire month of October thus far, I have only received a $2.00 benefit payment with no other weeks available to claim. If that's not a "downed system" - I don't know what is. It's also a lie that 50,000 or so people had no problems. I haven't come across one person as of yet, and I am on countless forums that have been able to claim their weeks or file a claim - OR get through on the phones. They are absolutely lying.

Where is Gov. Rick Scott? Where is the public announcement on the news from the DEO or Rick Scott, not only apologizing for what they have done to the already suffering unemployed, but giving us a viable ETA on when ALL of our owed monies will be available to us? Nowhere, that's where - not a word, no acknowledgment, no concern for us at all.

100's of resumes sent out monthly, contacting companies personally weekly, and not one job offer - now I can't even access my unemployment benefits and am worried sick - my dog ate bread today???? I ate 2 potatoes??? That would not have happened if my check came through, which it didn't, because the "new system that isn't down" would not allow me to claim for week ending 10/12/13. The phone hotline customer service agents have as much information as we do ---- NONE. They are being told to tell us "Tallahassee is aware of the problems and glitches and are working on them" - but they are not being given an ETA, nor are they allowed to give us one.

I can't look for work if I can't put gas in my car - I can't put gas in my car if I can't access my benefits income - we are drowning and neither the DEO or Rick Scott have had the decency to make a public media statement about this - they DO NOT care, which we've known since Rick Scott came into office and has been trying to cut the unemployment benefits ever since - refusing to acknowledge to the general public that the unemployment rate in FL is still among the lowest in the entire Country.

We need help - we need a voice, we need pressure on them. Let them pull down the new system, reinstate the old system and allow us ALL to catch up on all the missed weeks we weren't able to claim for - as well as the ones now coming up. Once they have fixed their $63 million dollar system, dollars that could have gone to the unemployed, then they could put the new system back up. Meanwhile, here we sit, the already drowning and horribly suffering unemployed - filled with anxiety, stress, worry and chest pains - waiting for acknowledgment with none to be given.

Can't take anymore

The Scott administration has made it pretty clear that you are not welcome in Florida unless you are rich or a Republican stooge. Working class and poor people need to just leave because the wealthy fear you will vote to tax them for your food and shelter.

Marsha

Just once, I would like for Jesse Panuccio and/or Rick Scott to have the backbone to admit that the roll out of the Connect system turned out to be a disaster-oh, and lets not forget the Project Leader. They also need to go one step further and make a public statement on what their plan is to make sure everyone gets their benefits. Those of us who depend on the little bit of help that we do get should not be penalized for this debacle.
Note to Florida Mom: How dare you make such a ridiculous comment. I have worked my whole life and was laid off at the age of 60. So don't you dare tell me to pull myself up by my own bootstraps.

Ken

FLMom is a complete waste of good oxygen. I lost my job 2 years ago at age 58, and have only had two interviews since, while making my minimum of 5 contacts a week. I sometimes work part time as needed for my previous employer, but I really need the unemployment benefits. The computer problems are horrible, but the coverup is worse.

Bill Burns

Can we not get an attorney to help us where is "FOR THE PEOPLE"

Rubio

The system is hopelessly screwed up. I was told to claim weeks today, yet when I log on I see now "claim weeks" link but an enigmatic message saying I "may claim week 10/24-11/7" This is doing exactly what Rick Scott and Republicans want - ruin the unemployed and force them into destitution and make them homeless. What's the state going to look like then? I'm doing everything I can to look for work, but so far nothing. Too few jobs, too many seekers.

Katie

I agree with Ken. Fla Mom is a complete waste of oxygen. Gov Scott should be ashamed of himself. I can't believe he hasn't address the issues of the new Connect system failing while so many go without their benefits. It's stressful enough being unemployed and trying to live on $275.00 a week without having this problem added. We need someone who cares about the people. That's not Gov Scott. I can proudly say I didn't vote for him. I hope that once his term ends, he's not voted back in. Praying someone steps up soon to help the unemployed individuals. Our voice needs to be heard. A lot of families are going without income which means kids without food & shelter. Praying...............!

Lesley

I agree 110%..I went to claim weeks today..nothing there. The only thing you see is an asinine message stating you "may" or "can" claim weeks to go and click this "imaginary" link...that we all know does not work..so tmrw once the sun rises again, back to placing calls and seeing what to do so I dont get screwed....looks like I may have to make a trip straight to the office of Governor Duche to see how annoyed he would be having me there ALL DAY LONG...Carpool anyone????

David

This is a debacle of epic proportion. $63 million for a new system? What we have here is $250 Gov’t hammer, and it’s made of plastic. The sad part is that the average citizen won’t even wince at this issue because they are employed. They’ve got their job and it has not affected them. This is a huge injustice that is impacting a small percentage of the population. The unemployed are viewed as second class citizens and this mess will go unnoticed. There had to have been some serious pocket lining to be going on for this to happen. This state is so hard on crime, well Rick, there are clearly many criminals involved in what just happened. Will you go after them now? Or are you involved too?

Paul

I am glad to read these comments as I thought I was the only one having the problem of not being able to claim weeks properly. One of my weeks only paid me $71 and this round only let me claim one of the two weeks I should have been able to claim! It says something about claiming again 10/31-11/14 which I don't get. I thought I made a mistake in the claiming process on the new system but after reading the above comments it is clearly a systems issue! I commend you Kimberly for what you wrote and you speak for all of us affected by this atrocious system and struggling to pay our bills. My bills won't wait indefinitely for my payment yet this system is causing me to wait for my unemployment benefits with no recourse or information available... I am pretty sure Rick Scott is not going to be re-elected...

Hurting and Disgusted

I hate to say I'm glad I see more people having issues, but I thought it was just me. I started the claim process right before the "switchover". I have now had to "reapply" twice, each time getting the message that now we can claim weeks in another 3 weeks. Its been 7 weeks now, and we have received NOTHING but aggravation. The funny thing is, when we do finally get to talk to a real person, they say they can see when we originally opened our claim, but it doesn't show on our end.

And FL MOM, I happen to be a FL mom too. It must be nice to look down on us unworthy people who need a little help to feed our children and keep a roof over their heads. I guess working 20+ years and never needing help until now makes me a piece of dirt in your eyes. I hope someday YOU need help, and get nothing but grief in return. Will serve you right.

BrooklynHeart

Please - for the love of God - someone with a public voice - please go to this FB page, read all of the comments under the DEO posts, read all of the posts written by the unemployed. Read all of the comments to the posts written by the unemployed. There is a HUGE cover up going on - we need help!

https://www.facebook.com/FLDEO?hc_location=stream

Michael

Everyone is having similar issues. Even when you get through on the help line the reps can do nothing and are not providing any assistance. I believe they HAVE BEEN INSTRUCTED to relay the company line. Everyday I check mine and there's a different message. No results, no promised callback. Sometimes the customer service reps don't even try to disguise their disinterest. I also believe the folks answering the calls have less information then we do, and they don't have a clue either. Nor are allowed to tell anyone the truth. THE DAMN SYSTEM DOESN'T WORK!!!!!!

dave

Florida Republicans are quick to be critical of the AHA web site which is immeasurably more difficult to implement and test. They are scum. Rick Scott and his corrupt regime must go.

Michael Mxxxx

By the way, Fl mom,...you are an imbecile to collectively group together all who are unemployed as "moochers"....I usually wish bad times on no one, but you should be visited with the same plight as all of us and find out what reality is like in the state of Florida with that swine Rick Scott at the helm. You idiot.

Michael Mxxxx

FIX THE DAMNED SYSTEM!!

Michael Mxxxx

Would it be too much to ask...at the very least, could some representative of the Unemployment Assistance office make some attempt to communicate with the public and explain the reasons for the problems their system is having and what they're attempting to do about it?????

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