TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawyers spent almost five hours Tuesday, arguing whether Florida’s unemployment system was living up to the requirements of state law and whether a judge has the authority to order it to do more.
Lawyers for dozens who have not seen a dime argued the state knew the system would fail and didn’t do anything about it.
Unemployed Floridians testified about one horror story after another trying to apply for benefits.
"There no method. I couldn’t find out why I was denied,” said Amy Moore Rameriz.
They told the judge they spent as many as four hours a day trying to file or check on their claim with no luck.
“She called me at twelve o’clock in the afternoon. She got kicked off seven times. She reset my pin, I tried-to log in. The pin was not recognized,” said Michael Freas.
Attorney Marie Mattox told the judge the state had plenty of advance notice that the system wasn’t working.
She cited four state audits.
“Showing that they system was fatally flawed and there were 600 problems that were identified in the last audit, and nothing was done to fix these problems,” said Mattox.
Reginald Ellison, a recently laid off DEO call center employee was asked about information and even whole claims just disappearing.
“The main the piece of information that seems to be getting lost is the claimants income information,” said Ellison.
From the beginning of the hearing, the judge said he was sympathetic to the unemployed who haven’t gotten a check, but at the same time he questioned what authority he had to order any changes.
DEO called just one witness, its CFO Damon Steffens.
He testified on improved servers and how the claims process worked.
“The most common reasons people are ineligible is because of wages,” said Steffens. “Job history, wages, things of that nature."
On Saturday and Sunday the agency paid out more than $700 million, a two-day record.
The hearing was scheduled for three hours.