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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill Nelson calls for federal investigation of unemployment website



U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for a federal investigation into problems plaguing Florida ’s new unemployment website.

The Florida Democrat has asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate what is going wrong with the $63 million overhaul, which has erroneously blocked some jobless people from applying for their benefits.

The new system, called CONNECT, launched three weeks ago and is intended to make accessing Florida's unemployment benefits easier. Florida is working with Deloitte, the contractor that built the site, to iron out glitches, according to Jessica Sims, a state spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, frustrated claimants continue to post on the DEO Facebook page and email Gov. Rick Scott. Dozens more have contacted The Buzz.

Nelson, in a news release, said the problems must be fixed.

“While states administer their own unemployment compensation program … they do so under the Department of Labor which oversees many of the programs our nation has for American workers, including unemployment benefits,” Nelson wrote in a letter to Perez.  "The main purpose behind this federal-state program is to help stabilize the economy during recessions.  But it certainly won't be of much help in my state if those who have lost their jobs face protracted delays in seeking or receiving benefits."

The relationship between the U.S. Labor Department and how Florida processes unemployment claims is already tense. Federal officials say Florida violated the civil rights of unemployed individuals because it required them to apply online for benefits.

Jesse Panuccio, secretary of DEO, quickly responded with a statement that the agency continues to work around the clock to ensure the needs of every claimant are addressed.

"We welcome any assistance and input Senator Nelson and the federal government can provide as we identify and fix website problems where they arise," he wrote.

The launch of CONNECT came shortly after the Oct. 1 debut of the Obamacare website, which has been under fire from Republicans and Democrats for its poor performance. Opponents to the health care law have grown increasingly vocal this week in their call for the resignation of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.




[Last modified: Friday, November 1, 2013 12:09pm]


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