Nelson wants feds to probe Scott’s rollout of jobless websiteby John Kennedy | October 30th, 2013
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked federal officials Wednesday to examine problems involving the rollout of Florida’s new Connect system for those seeking unemployment benefits.
The move comes even as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was being grilled by congressional Republicans for the similarly balky start of enrollment in new federal health exchanges. Nelson said that Floridians seeking jobless benefits they have earned are entitled to better from their government.
“The main purpose behind this federal-state program is to help stabilize the economy during recessions,” Nelson said in his letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. “But it certainly won’t be of much help in my state if those who have lost their jobs face protracted delays in seeking or receiving benefits.”
The Florida unemployment compensation system’s new, $63 million website left a trail of frustrated users who filled Facebook and Twitter with tales of online malfunctions and help lines that don’t work when it debuted earlier this month.
Officials with the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees the site, said Wednesday that 230,000 claims have been processed so far on the new system. Calls to technical help desks are down more than 60 percent since last week, officials said.
“DEO continues to work around the clock to ensure the needs of every claimant are addressed,” said Jesse Panuccio, DEO’s executive director. “We welcome any assistance and input Senator Nelson and the federal government can provide as we identify and fix website problems where they arise.”
CONNECT was developed by Deloitte Consulting, which has had problems in recent years with technology contracts in California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, where last summer it fell two years behind and $6 million over-budget in delivering a similar, unemployment claims system.
New York-based Deloitte LLP is one of the nation’s largest management and information-technology consulting firms. It’s among a handful of corporate giants providing information technology services to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Internal Revenue Service, as part of the Oct. 1 rollout of health exchanges.