Confirmation likely despite Fla. unemployment website glitches

State stops collecting fines from vendor behind failed launch of CONNECT


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state has stopped collecting fines from the vendor behind the failed launch of a new $63 million unemployment system called CONNECT, and the man behind the launch is likely going to keep his job.

After thousands of unemployed were wrongly denied unemployment benefits, computer contractor Deloitte is paying $675,000 in fines.

The state assessed a $15,000 a day penalty for 45 days. The fines ended in February.

Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio made the announcement at his confirmation hearing.

"From a technical standpoint, on Feb. 28, DEO was able to certify that our vendor had fixed all known, high-impact defects," said Panuccio.

Call volumes are down and the number waiting to hear if they qualify has dropped dramatically.

"Not successful or a failure," Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Broward) termed the launch.

Senators generally gave the executive director the benefit of the doubt.

"We took ownership of it and we fixed it, and we addressed it," said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

RELATED: CONNECT unemployment site improving, but not perfect

"It was a hard few months, much harder for the people being affected by the delayed claims than it was for any of us," said Panuccio. "Confirmation will be reported favorably."

But the battle isn't over for the ones who embattled boss. The full Senate has to agree with the committee. If they take no vote whatsoever, the governor would have to find a replacement.

Senators said they will keep asking questions.

"I need to think a little bit more about the role he will play in the future," said Sobel.

Additional staff and outside computer consultants hired at the height of problems remain at work at the department.

The DEO job pays $141,000, and Panuccio oversees 1,600 employees and an $800 million-plus budget.