Florida has a new website for unemployment claims, and much like the federal government’s health insurance website, it’s plagued with problems.
The Reemployment Assistance Connect System – known as CONNECT – is where jobless Floridians must go to file their claims. It’s overseen by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
The new website launched in mid-October at a cost of nearly $63 million, paid for in part by federal funds. It replaces a three-decades old system with modern technology that’s supposed to be easier to use and maintain. Users have access 24-7.
But complaints have been steady since its debut. Thousands of users are getting error messages or are simply unable to log on. They’ve also had trouble reaching humans on the customer service help line.
House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Ft. Lauderdale, wants Gov. Rick Scott to explain why the problems haven’t been fixed.
“The first barrier against these folks was laid in place when it was decided to require computer access to apply for unemployment benefits,” Thurston said. “Many people face hardships that limit their access to computers…My hope is that Governor Scott will take action to correct a system that’s supposed to assist working Floridians and their families when they most need the help.”
The situation is so bad that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is calling for a federal investigation.
Nelson sent a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez asking that he make sure the state is “doing everything it can to correct problems” with the website.
“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,” Nelson wrote.
He asked Perez to “investigate the circumstances surrounding the roll out" of the online claims system.
The state is hoping to finally have the glitches repaired this weekend.
Officials from the Department of Economic Opportunity will talk about the new CONNECT system – and no doubt answer questions about system malfunctions - before Florida House and Senate committees next week.