TALLAHASSEE, Florida – – The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity says changes will be made after an independent study of the reemployment support system finds ways to improve it.
The 200-page study by a third party was released on Friday evening.
The study found that the CONNECT system was not designed to handle the volume of damage received during the pandemic.
“We have seen hotel cancellations and major layoffs across the state of Florida, particularly in the service industry, which is one of the largest industries, and people have begun to plunge into the unemployment system,” said State Representative Anna Eskamani.
The study presented the rising unemployment rate in the state after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It states: “In February 2020 the unemployment rate in Florida was 2.8%. By March 2020 the unemployment rate rose to 4.4% and in April 2020 even higher to 13.8%.
In the same period, the system increased from fewer than 5,000 claims per week to more than 500,000 claims per week.
“Other states have had similar spikes, I just haven’t seen a breakdown in their systems. It’s enough … some states, smaller populations running older or newer systems, or whatever, but we weren’t prepared. We weren’t prepared for a little slip once, “said Senator Jason Pizzo.
The study found that there were issues ranging from the inability to make a claim, the inability to talk to employees, to a delay in performance. According to the report, the increased workload revealed weaknesses in the systems.
“Many of the conclusions in this report, I think, are not surprising to those of us who have been looking at the unemployment system for a year. We know the website cannot handle the traffic,” said State Representative Eskamani.
The DEO published the 200-page study late Friday, February 26th, with these as “key results.”
- 1. The department continues to work tirelessly to ensure that applicants receive benefits.
- 2. The CONNECT system was not designed to handle the volume of claims received during the pandemic.
- 3. Significant investments were made in 2020 to stabilize and scale the system.
- 4. These investments led to the necessary increases in the annual RA-IT basic budget.
- 5. Additional investments in cloud migration are required to optimize performance and costs.
- 6. Investments in software architecture are necessary to enable the timely implementation of user-oriented services.
- 7. Business Process Optimization (BPO) and investment in the user interface are required to optimize the user experience.
The department also wants to set up the “Bureau of Economic Accountability and Transparency and the Bureau of Strategic Planning for the Modernization of Unemployment Benefits”.
According to a press release, the bill is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) and Representative Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point).
“This partnership with the Department of Economic Opportunities is critical to ensuring accountability to the state’s reemployment assistance program,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean. “Floridians are frustrated with the current system and I take pride in taking the necessary steps to improve management and efficiency by making these additional resources available to the department.”
“The past year has been incredibly difficult for families in our state. The loss of loved ones and unemployment have weighed heavily on all of our communities. I take pride in promoting laws that help families get the re-employment benefits they need I vowed to take on this issue and revise the way Florida’s system works, and I look forward to making that happen with Governor Ron DeSantis and his team at DEO, ”said Representative Chip LaMarca.