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With feds and civil right groups watching, new jobless claims site is up

It’s been a week since unemployed Floridians could use the state’s online system to process claims, making it even harder to receive jobless benefits in a system ranked lowest in granting aid.  

Last week, state officials took down the state’s online system so it could launch a new $63 million unemployment claims site, which is called “Connect”.

Although the call center was set to debut Tuesday at 7:30 a.m., a spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Opportunity, Jessica Sims, said the Connect site didn’t come up until shortly before 9 a.m. (UPDATE: Sims replied in a subsequent e-mail that the site was actually up by 8:15 a.m. She said only the call center, and not the site, was supposed to start at 7:30 a.m. She didn't say when the online site had been scheduled to start.)

"More than 200 initial claims were filed successfully and about 2,600 continued claims were filed successfully," Sims said.

Any delay is noteworthy because, as the AP reported last week, though state officials say the new site is an improvement, they still warn of longer wait times and busier phone lines as Floridians adjust to the new system. It's also noteworthy because the feds have been critical of the way Florida provides jobs benefits.

Only about 17 percent of Floridians eligible for unemployment benefits actually received them, a level that many blame on a 2011 bill approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Rick Scott that forced all applicants for unemployment benefits to go online. Before the bill was signed into law, people could turn in applications on paper or over the telephone. The law also required applicants to take a 45-question assessment to measure their skills.

The U.S. Department of Labor initially approved the changes, which eventually led to a sharp increase in the number of rejected applications. Civil rights groups filed challenges with the federal government over the changes. In April, the DOL's Civil Rights Center sided with the pro-worker groups.

Federal officials found that Florida violated the civil rights of unemployed individuals, beginning in 2011, when it required them to apply online for benefits and take an "assessment" before receiving any unemployment check. It found that DEO's unemployment program discriminated against people who speak Spanish and Creole, as well as those who were blind or otherwise disabled. With millions in federal aid at stake, the DEO agreed to enter negotiations and make appropriate changes.

The DEO pushed back, however, charging that the DOL findings were “flawed” and based on politics rather than facts. DEO general counsel Robert Sechen accused the DOL of collaborating with the Miami Workers Center.

It's also worth noting that the vendor of Connect, Deloitte Consulting, has had issues in other states.

The Deloitte jobless claims system put online in Massachusetts was two years late, $6 million over budget, and plagued with problems that left hundreds of jobless workers struggling to get benefits.

 

Comments

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Nicole O'Brien

I have been trying to claim my weeks for 2hours now.. he website isn't working properly at all & it's been impossible to get through on the 800# becasue it doesn't even give you an option to be put on hold, it just says that everybody is already helping someone else & then it says to try your call again later & disconnects the call

Nate

System only allowed me to claim one week. States I cannot file another for four weeks from now. Can't get thru to customer service at all.

Daily

i am having the same issue by trying to help my mother who doesn't speak english and is not computer savy. then when i call if i finally get through they treat you like a piece of trash and talk down to you even though she has more than paid in to this token of unemployement benefits. she's worked hard her whole life and now depends on me to do this for her every week. the new system is a joke. as a citizen i feel like they have once again figured out a new way to waste the peoples money to put a system that is benefiting who?. its a waste of resources. if its not broken why fix?

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