CONNECT unemployment site improving, but not perfect

Thousands of Floridians still having trouble with state's website

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A weak U.S. jobs report isn't exactly music to the ears of thousands of Floridians still having trouble with the state's CONNECT unemployment website. The $63 million project is improving, but still isn't perfect.

Friday means paychecks for a lot of people in the state, but there are still thousands of job-seeking Floridians scratching their heads over their benefits thanks to Florida's CONNECT website.

The unemployment system has had a rough ride since its launch in October. A federal investigation found that people eligible for benefits were being flagged in the system.

The state's Department of Economic Opportunity declined an interview on the website's status. The department has been fining its contractor since December to the tune of $15,000 a day. That's added up to $480,000 so far.

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A month ago, the department was answering about a third of the calls coming in. It's now up to eight out of 10.

"Oh, it's a very big concern, you bet your boots it is," said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Lake County. "I mean, this is affecting people's lives and we want to get it right as quickly as we can, and we're putting as much pressure on Deloitte as we can to get things corrected."

The state is hiring 250 employees by the end of February to handle claims and another 80 to work in the call center. Gov. Rick Scott said they're doing the best they can.

"They're working very diligently. They're going to get that done," said Scott. "They care about making sure that every Floridian has a right to get their unemployment benefits."

While the CONNECT system still struggles to make sure all Floridians receive their checks, the DEO maintains that it is operating above the level of the system it replaced. A department spokeswoman said that there are about 20,000 people flagged in the system, down from 60,000 about a month ago.

The DEO maintained that they would keep fining Deloitte $15,000 a day until they are satisfied with the website's performance.

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