Make us your home page
Instagram

Online and helpline glitches snag Florida's new jobless claims system

With the rollout of Florida's new $63 million unemployment system entering its third week, it's still unclear how many claimants are having serious problems accessing their benefits.

Internet snags, clogged phone lines and packed unemployment offices seem par for the course for dozens of people who have contacted the Tampa Bay Times saying they are on track to miss a month or more of claims.

Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity oversees the unemployment system and says it has 562 employees working overtime to address complaints and questions. Still, more than 1.1 million people have been disconnected from the phone helpline. At times, only one of every 25 callers can reach a person.

Meanwhile, more than 5,600 people have contacted the department in writing and dozens more have flooded Gov. Rick Scott's email with complaints about the new system, known as CONNECT.

"There is absolutely no way to get through," said Julie Jared, 42, of Port Orange, who was laid off from a travel agency in September and is supposed to get $229 per week. "Even if you call every hour of every day, there's no way to get your issue addressed."

Jessica Sims, a spokeswoman for Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees the unemployment system, said every claimant is important and the state is working with Deloitte — the contractor behind the project — to iron out the glitches. Thousands of claims are being processed per hour and benefits delayed or deleted due to technical errors will be backdated, she added.

The department touted the success of the revamp for a week before acknowledging that some claimants were erroneously blocked from entering the website or from claiming certain benefits.

"The Department of Economic Opportunity regrets any delays or frustration experienced by claimants," a media release said.

The situation highlights existing concerns from the U.S. Department of Labor about whether Florida is breaking federal law by allowing people to file claims only over the Internet.

It also raises questions about Deloitte, the New York-based company being paid $46 million for the state's revamp.

Deloitte led troubled overhauls of unemployment websites in California and Massachusetts and was fired in Miami-Dade County in 2009 partway through an $84 million contract to overhaul the district's computer system.

In June 2012, Florida looked like it was on a similar path, threatening to terminate its contract with Deloitte for a seeming inability to deliver on the system it promised.

Deloitte responded by switching its project manager and beefing up staff in Tallahassee.

The former system was so fragmented and at such a risk of failure, Sims said, the state didn't want to delay the new system by starting over.

Ultimately, Deloitte got $6.4 million more than originally negotiated for a project that took 10 months longer than estimated, contracts show.

Jessica Blume, a vice chairwoman for Deloitte, said in a prepared statement that the company has successfully completed thousands of projects around the country and prioritizes meeting the needs of people who rely on government for services.

"We care about our clients' success, and are committed to helping them improve the lives of the people they serve," she wrote.

Vanessa Giacoman of Panorama Government Solutions, which provides independent expert witnesses in public contract disputes, said roughly 80 percent of government projects result in delays or budget overruns, due to a system that rewards the lowest bidder and encourages companies to cut corners.

But Deloitte's recent streak of glitchy software rollouts is out of the ordinary, she added.

Deloitte has paid out more than $100,000 to Florida political groups since 2000 and employs six lobbyists in Tallahassee, including Brian Ballard, who also represents U.S. Sugar and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida. Deloitte has nine state contracts worth a combined $475 million.

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or bdavis@tampabay.com.

Online and helpline glitches snag Florida's new jobless claims system 10/29/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 10:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Eat 3-course meals for $35 at these 100 restaurants for Orlando's Magical Dining Month

    Food & Dining

    In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multi-course meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte …

    Bulla Gastrobar serves a variety of Spanish and Portuguese dishes.
  2. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman sells house for $3 million to new player

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman's multi-million Davis Islands home is staying in the Lightning family. Yzerman sold his 6,265-square-foot house Monday to new defenseman Dan Girardi for $3 million.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman sold for $3 million Monday to Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi. | [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  3. Trigaux: As Florida seeks top 10 status as best business state, red flag rises on workforce

    Business

    In the eternal quest to appeal more to business than other states, Florida's managed to haul itself out of some pretty mediocre years. After scoring an impressive 8 among 50 states way back in 2007, Florida suffered horribly during and immediately after the recession. Its rank sank as low as No. 30 only four years ago, …

    Florida's trying to make strides in preparing its high school and college graduates for the rapidly changing skill sets of today's workforce. But the latest CNBC ranking of the best and worst states for business gave Florida poor marks for education, ranking No. 40 (tied with South Carolina for education) among the 50 states. Still, Florida ranked No. 12 overall in the best business states annual ranking. [Alan Berner/Seattle Times]
  4. Florida hasn't executed a white person for killing a black person. Until now.

    State Roundup

    GAINESVILLE — For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with help of a drug that has never been used previously in any U.S. execution.

    This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay. If his final appeals are denied, Asay is to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Thursday. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.  [Florida Department of Corrections via AP]
  5. Can the Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl thrive in competitive sports market?

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — It's a funky name: the Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. But the new sponsors for the former St. Petersburg Bowl might need more than an eye-catching name to create a thriving, profitable contest.

    NC State head coach Dave Doeren clutches the championship trophy after winning the Bitcoin Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg in 2014. Bowl organizers are changing the name of the game to the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
[

MONICA HERNDON | TIMES]