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Bill Nelson asks - again - if feds can investigate Florida's unemployment website


Concerned by continuous media reports about the botched debut of Florida’s $63 million unemployment benefits website,U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday repeated his request that federal officials investigate and, if necessary, intervene.

“Any continued problems in processing unemployment claims only delays financial help to those who need it most due to misfortune,” Nelson said in a letter to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez. “I would appreciate hearing back to you by Jan. 14.”

Nelson first asked Perez to investigate Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity’s Oct. 15 launch of the CONNECT web on Oct. 30. By then, thousands of recipients complained they couldn’t log on or contact DEO employees for help.

In Tuesday’s letter, Nelson says Perez told him then that the DEO promised that the website’s unresolved issues would be “fixed and the system stabilized by mid-to-late December.”

“You also noted, ‘should we learn any additional information suggesting that 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,’” Nelson said in the letter.

But he said recent reports in the Times/Herald and Tuesday’s front page story in the New York Times led him to conclude the problems are not 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,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he questions whether the DEO is in violation of the Social Security Act by not providing “full payment of unemployment compensation when due.”

If Florida is found in violation, Nelson asked Perez to determine what actions the federal government can take to “ensure timely payment of claims due Floridians.”