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Florida's jobless claims system stumbles but finally starts online

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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 debuted 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 8:15 a.m. She said only the call center was supposed to start at 7:30 a.m. As of 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, 14,585 people filed claims and 1,400 filed new claims, Sims said.

Any delay is noteworthy because 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 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.

Democrat reflects

Tuesday was release day for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's book For the Next Generation: A Wake-Up Call to Solving Our Nation's Problems.

The Florida Democrat outlines a progressive agenda while reflecting on gridlock and partisanship, though she does not hold back criticizing the GOP.

"The time has come for registered Republicans to demand that their leaders be responsible stewards of the national economy," she writes. "It's a party that today is focused more on getting elected than on the responsibilities of governing. America is strongest when both parties are engaged in a good faith effort to create jobs for all Americans. I think of my legislative occupation as an extension of my familial job, being a mother to my three young children. And I can't imagine jeopardizing their economic future for a short-term political reward. To do what's right, you have to be willing to risk losing. We must move beyond pure party loyalty and be willing to come together."

Ryan rehired

A month after he was fired by Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant, Jeff Ryan is back on the party payroll. Incoming House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said he rehired Ryan last week in part because Ryan's absence left the state House Democrats' fundraising arm in a vacuum. Ryan had been House Victory finance director for more than 15 years until axed by Tant and state party executive director Scott Arceneaux in September.

Alex Leary and Adam C. Smith contributed to this report, which also uses information from the News Service of Florida.

Florida's jobless claims system stumbles but finally starts online 10/15/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 8:47pm]
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