Fla. unemployment website problems affect many

Sen. Bill Nelson calls for federal probe

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's supposed to help those who are down on their luck, but many say they're not getting any assistance.

Florida's troubled unemployment website, called CONNECT web, has been criticized since it launched in October.

This week, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called for a federal investigation into what's wrong with the $63 million website, which was developed by a private company called Deloitte. It's the second time he's written Washington D.C. asking for answers.

It affects a lot of people in the northeast Florida area who say they're struggling to survive without the government's help.

Kathleen LoGiurato is one of those people. She said she writes and calls the unemployment office every day, but she hasn't gotten the help she needs, and it's because of this website.

LoGiurato said she's glad Nelson is stepping in and hopefully he can help.

"I have lost everything," she said.

LoGiurato's seen better days. The single mom lost her job in banking in September and has three kids younger than 6 she has to support. They've all had to move into one room at her parents' house.

"I've lost my home," she said. "I had to move from Jacksonville with my three kids, and I lost my car, I lost all my worldly possessions."

She applied for Florida's unemployment benefits online, but that was months ago, and she said she still hasn't seen a penny.

"Basically, right as I was about to claim my first two weeks, they switched systems," LoGiurato said. "Once they did that it started triggering what they called glitches on my account."

Struggling to buy food and diapers, LoGiurato calls every day but said she's not getting anything solved. She's one of many who have emailed and called Channel 4 to complain about the nationally criticized program Nelson is now crusading to fix.

"When somebody's down and out, it's inexcusable that they can't get their legal and just compensation because the state of Florida's website is not working," Nelson said. "I've asked the federal government to do an investigation. I'm expecting a report within a week."

Leaders at the Department of Economic Opportunities have said they're working on it. A private company designed the site, and the department is trying to deal with all the reported problems.

"I just need something so that I can put food on the table for my kids," LoGiurato said.

She said she's applying for jobs and trying to find work.

"Basically they tell you that you are overqualified," she said.

In the meantime, she just wants the benefits she needs so much.

"I hope this doesn't happen to somebody that doesn't have the family that I have," she said. "There's going to be people that are homeless if they have to go through this."

After Channel 4 let them know about LoGiurato's complaints, a spokeswoman with the Department of Economic Opportunities said a case worker was assigned to get to the bottom of the problem. She said she couldn't discuss specifics because of the state's confidentiality rules.

Gov. Rick Scott responded to the national criticism and the comments from Senator Nelson. In a statement emailed to Channel 4, he wrote:

"It is a shame that Senator Nelson doesn't give this kind of attention to fixing Washington's failures on Lake Okeechobee's environmental issues, fixing health insurance for those who lost their policies, and fixing the ridiculous flood insurance rate hikes on Floridians.

DEO is going to get this fixed. Deloitte has already been fined millions of dollars and we continue to penalize them $15,000 every day that we do not have a working system. DEO is now also working with another company to help get this fixed. This will be fixed. We will absolutely make sure every claimant entitled to benefits gets them."

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