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Crist: Scott's disclosure of website issues is "outright deception"

It's been remarked before about how the troubles with the state's new $63-million unemployment website resemble those of the federal healthcare.gov website

Charlie Crist, Rick Scott's opponent in the 2014 gubernatorial race, spotlighted that comparison on Thursday in an interview with the Times/Herald and said it's much worse in Florida.

"What I see from the Obama administration is an acknowledgment of a problem," Crist said. "What I see here in Florida is a pattern of non-transparency and outright deception. It's night and day, with the Obama administration being the day and the Scott administration being night. It's the people's right to know what's going on."

Since the launch of the CONNECT website, thousands of recipients have complained about glitches and delayed processing in claims. While state officials say that the technical issues are getting resolved, they acknowledge problems persist.

Meanwhile, the agency that oversees the website has hardly been forthcoming. An internal memo leaked to the Times/Herald in October instructed Department of Economic Opportunity employees not to talk to reporters or "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." When asked days after the troubled launch of the website if the contractor, Deloitte Consulting, had been put on notice for non-performance, a DEO spokeswoman, Jessica Sims, replied back with a non-answer to the question. Later, the Times/Herald discovered she also didn't disclose the letter from DEO to Deloitte that in fact put it on notice for non-performance.

Another DEO spokeswoman, Monica Russell, later apologized for the non-disclosure.

In public records requests, the DEO has repeatedly charged the Times/Herald hefty sums of money that Crist says are hard to believe.

For instance, in October, the Times/Herald requested the emails of four DEO employees involved in the website project. Although the DEO initially estimated the cost of the request to be $157, it later upped the amount another $900.72.

Crist couldn't believe the DEO was charging $1,057.

"That's insane," Crist said. "Those emails belong to the people of Florida."

To him, however, it was emblamatic of how Scott is handling the issue. 

"The Scott administration won't answer questions," Crist said. 

When asked for a response to Crist, the governor's office referred the Times/Herald to a DEO statement from Wednesday.

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

Since mid-October, the Times/Herald has asked repeatedly for the number of claimants who have been unable to receive benefits because of problems with CONNECT. On Thursday, Russell said there's no way to differentiate those from people who are ineligible.

In other words, who knows?



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ed jenkins

The people of Florida and readers do not care about some welfare payment website and the readers have no interest in reading this nonsensical article attempting to equate a hated medical law at the federal level to a welfare distribution website at the state level. If these people can't receive these payments then it is probably a good thing since it will encourage them to find work.

This hometown paper is coming very close to being labeled as a biased paper against a governor who has won over this democrat primary voter and who the citizens and readers are quite pleased with. If the Herald is to continue as a hometown paper it needs to be neutral in political races.

tony smith

We knew it would be Ed Jenkins. If the people of Florida care about Obamacare websites, why not the Florida website? PS: Unemployment benefits are a collaboration between the state AND federal government. Also, if people can't receive Obamacare, wouldn't that encourage them to find a job to get coverage?

Gov. Scott: Please stop trying to argue. You are weak! I swear you are the Gov. Who else is this stupid and predictable?


Yet another (lie?) broken promise by this Governor. Mr. Jenkins has his head so far up the Governor's buttocks; he considers anything Scott does as the sweet smell of success.

ed jenkins

As we have seen some lazy individuals commenting on articles would prefer to be paid for not working and complain about functioning of websites allowing this shameful act.

Website are not the only way of contacting people and if the lazy individuals will not even get up off the couch the citizens will not have any pity for them. While there are similarities between this and the horrible government law despised by Floridians and readers of the paper interfering with private transactions between willing individuals and insurers of medical expenses in that they both have websites, that can be said of any government function these days as more information is disseminate through and transactions processed through websites.

Indie Thinker

Ed seems to have missed the most important comparison of all: Transparency in acknowledging a problem. I guess it doesn't fit comfortably in his worldview to acknowledge this as an example of one of many incompentencies, falsehoods, and failures on Scott's record.

I'm no fan of Obamacare as it stands, but I can be honest enough to see the difference.

He says:

"If these people can't receive these payments then it is probably a good thing since it will encourage them to find work."

Think it's that easy, huh? How about Ed puts his money where his mouth is? I say, whether he's working or not, he goes out right now and starts applying for a job, goes for interviews, and tells us just how fast he gets one. He doesn't have to take the job if he's working now. It's just a chance to prove that he's right in implying that the unemployed just aren't trying hard enough.

What do you say, Ed?


Give em hell Charlie!


I hate to say it but the point is Floridians who paid into the unemployment system, some times for decades in my particular case, should expect the government to keep their end of the deal when we loose our employment. The other facts to consider is that Gov. Scott and DEO's Jesse P. are falling all over themselves to give business tax breaks and incentives to locate in Florida and create jobs to bring economic recovery to the state.
But currently there are no requirements placed on businesses to document this economic recovery to the state the way restrictions are placed on Florida citizens who have already paid into the unemployment system so that it will be there when needed. It is so bad that businesses can request tax rebates & incentives retrograde without any current requirements to document the actual jobs created so that these new workers can bring economic recovery to the state through spending their income in the local economy. This while at the same time making it more difficult for unemployed Floridian to apply, let along actually receive months of back logged UI checks the majority of problems due to technical errors from DEO's switch to the new Connect claim system on Oct. 15, 2013.
The main point is that all the unemployed Floridians would be spending their UI funds locally and thus booting the local economies in a very concrete way as opposed to giving thousands in tax rebates which takes away from the local government coffers and which must be made up in other way.
Additionally the funds that goes to business does not necessarily make it back into the local Florida economies since these funds can be spent out of the state of Florida purchasing equipment and paying out of state employees. So not all the hundreds of thousands of tax rebates and incentive which can be paid retroactively to businesses and have absolutely no requirements to justify these funds with actual jobs. So in this way, businesses are actually removing funds from the Florida economies until the few if any actual jobs are created.
While there is absolutely no way to confirm that funds spent courting businesses to locate to Florida make it into the local economies it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that UI funds paid to unemployed Floridians will remain in the local the economies.
Also the promised jobs by businesses typically range from a few dozen to several hundred and occasionally a few thousand tops. So money that is sent to the unemployed Floridian which typically range in the tens of thousands, current around 75,000, when they spend their UI funds in their local economies will be the engine that will bring more real job opportunities in those economies. This is a real influx of cash at a local level which supports current local businesses that pay taxes that goes back to the Florida government.
So while Gov. Scott & DEO have absolutely no qualms about giving hundreds of thousands to businesses for only vague promises of some new jobs and which some times do not materialize for years down the road. By these action these two appear to have no concept of the negative impacts that denying or delaying for months the UI checks for tens of thousand of unemployed Floridians has to local economies and the state tax base.
The next question is why was Deloitte even considered for updating the Florida unemployment web site when this is the only way for unemployed Floridians to file and thus be counted in the states unemployment rate. This same rate that magically dropped drastically after the new DEO web site was deployed. Then because of this drastic drop in Florida's unemployment rate unemployed Floridians will be denied federal extension of emergency unemployment benefits.
Jesse P. keeps promising to pay out back logged UI benefits in what is now becoming months on months delays. These delays which have resulted in additional expenses and hardships such as late fees, higher interest rates, credit history dings and evictions to name a few. All of which have an additional negative impact on local economies since these funds that would have gone back into local business instead.
So as it stands now Gov. Scott & DEO's Jesse P. are taking hundreds of thousand of dollars out of local economies to give to businesses for some vague promise of jobs at a later date. While at the same time draining hundred of thousands that would have come into these same local economies though UI funds paid to unemployed Floridians, as well as the additional money being further drained out of these local economies by all the additional expenses unemployed Floridians are incurring because of their delayed UI checks.
Additionally with the deplorable track record that Deloitte has had in multiple other states attempting to deploy updated unemployment web sites that have not work and are still not working fully. States such as CA, PA, MA, ME, NV and NM to name a few of the 22 states that Deloitte had contracts to up date their unemployment systems.
Currently the states of CA, PA, MA and now FL have senate hearing on the botched claim systems that Deloitte tried to deploy and which has caused hundreds of thousands of American citizens to be denied unemployment benefits. So why would Gov. Scott & DEO choose Deloitte in the first place or can Deloitte over a year ago when they did not perform as promised.
What means do American citizens have to protect themselves from such blatant ineptitude by companies such as Deloitte and victimization by politicians for the benefit of businesses that raids the Florida coffers of much needed tax dollars.
Please note I am not saying that all business incentives should be abolished, but just that there should be terms, tracking, time constraints, documentation and consequences to justify the expenditure of these state funds just as there are for the unemployed Floridian citizens who received UI benefits.
Also that Gov. Scott and DEO should be as responsive to the needs of Floridians citizens as they are for businesses in the state of Florida.

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