Q&A of the Day – Ignored warnings with Florida’s unemployment website

Q&A of the Day – Ignored warnings with Florida’s unemployment claims website

Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Today’s entry: I hope to get some help in applying for unemployment. I’ve been trying for three weeks by calling different phone numbers and on the DEO website. Entered my SS# and then pin#.  After entering the pin# I get the message to call. This situation has taken a toll in my everyday life. I have to protect myself against the virus, to follow all the health instructions as a cancer survivor.

This situation is getting worse...everyday starting on the phone at 7.30 am thru 6.30 pm, keep trying. I do ask from the bottom of my heart to help me to get thru. 

Bottom Line: Stories like this one break my heart. Not only is it unfortunate,this appears to have been mostly preventable. The reason the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website has failed to the extent it has, isn’t just due to the record claims people are filing...it’s due to ignored warnings that it wasn’t prepared to handle a surge in claims. I began looking into the failures last Thursday when state Senator Joe Gruters said “someone should go to jail”. He shared the story of his mother, a laid off cashier, which is very similar to what you shared. Two weeks in she couldn’t complete a claim on the website or the phone either. As Joe pointed out, even a state senator couldn’t help his own mother. That’s because the system was broken on back of a perfect storm. 

  • Inferior website
  • Record claims
  • Many state employees working remotely

In a situation that’s eerily similar to the failure of the contractor handling SunPass, the vendor, Deloitte Consulting, created and maintains Florida’s DEO website and has since 2013. Starting with 2015 however, state auditors identified issues with the website (up to 600 by last year), that they warned would lead to failures if not fixed, with heavy usage. That’s five years' worth of warnings that seemingly were ignored. Because of low and consistently improving unemployment in Florida over the previous five years, the site was able to function with light usage. Evidently that’s why the auditor’s warnings weren’t acted on. Now hundreds of thousands of Floridians, like you are suffering the consequences of the inaction. I’ll be seeking answers and accountability. Here’s what is taking place that may help going forward. 

As Governor DeSantis stated yesterday, they added significant server capacity over the weekend when they took the site offline and can now process over 120,000 claims simultaneously and the state is still adding capacity. He also stated there’s now redundancy to the main site which didn’t exist previously. While I’m not in a position to file a claim, I was able to access the site up to the point of filing a claim. Hopefully that's a sign of meaningful improvement so please try again online. Another option now being offered up by the state is to mail your claim to this address:

  • Florida Department of Economic Opportunity 
  • P.O. Box 5350
  • Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350

As for the call center, the state has been actively hiring and training new employees, though they say they can only onboard 50 at a time. In other words, it could still be a hassle trying to get anyone on the phone, but your odds of reaching someone should literally be improving by the day as new employees are onboarded. I’m truly sorry for your experience and everyone let down by a combination of a crisis we didn’t see coming with the coronavirus, but exacerbated by a failure of a website the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity knew could be coming. 

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content