Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Federal officials bring overdue relief for Florida's unemployed

Florida's unemployed have the federal government and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to thank for finally shaking loose their overdue benefits. The state's $63 million CONNECT website has been malfunctioning since its launch in mid October, leaving thousands of jobless residents without a financial lifeline. When state officials and Gov. Rick Scott failed to treat the lapse as an emergency, Nelson and the Obama administration intervened. Federal labor officials arrived in Tallahassee on Friday, and by Saturday the Scott administration said that the benefits would flow again, a reminder of the essential role the federal government plays in policing intransigent states.

There is no excuse for it to have taken three months to get emergency unemployment payments out the door. Jesse Panuccio, who oversees the CONNECT website as executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, was unmoved by the desperate pleas of Florida's unemployed workers or took cues from Scott who expressed little concern over the plight of people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

The website, built by the private firm Deloitte Consulting, was so riddled with technical glitches that some claimants found it impossible to navigate and suffered significant payment delays. At one point calls to the department numbered in the hundreds of thousands every week as frustrated claimants tried in vain to get problems resolved. Floridians are in this predicament in part due to the Florida Legislature passing a wrongheaded law in 2011 requiring that jobless people apply for unemployment benefits only online. That requirement should be repealed, but the law doesn't excuse the state's failure to create an online system that works and to respond with some urgency when it didn't.

Since October, as thousands waited for their average $230 per week benefit to try to keep food on the table, a roof over their family's head and the lights on, Panuccio did little beyond pointing fingers to steer blame away from himself. First he claimed the media exaggerated the problem, and then he went after the consultant, which has been fined $15,000 per day for the problems.

Now checks will go out to thousands of Floridians who have had payments delayed more than a week due to website glitches. The federal experts who came to Tallahassee intended to get benefits flowing to claimants first and then resolve other issues. They succeeded. Yes, it will be tricky if there are people who receive unemployment benefits who later turn out not to be eligible, but the state will have to deal with those case by case. This is a mess Florida made for itself, and it took the federal government to show up to get the state to act.

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Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18