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State spends millions on second broken website

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Updated: 10/31/2013 1:04 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of Floridians are already complaining of technical with the state’s new unemployment benefits website, just one week after it was released.

“Sitting on the phone and getting that same automated response and not getting through, is worse than sitting at a dentist office,” says Julie Jones.

Jones has had many problems claiming her unemployment benefits in the past.

“You could not go back to fix problems with the old system.”

So last week when the state launched a new website to make filing claims easier, Jones wasn't confident it would work.

“That's the booklet that helps you navigate the website,” she said, as she flipped through a 50 page tutorial on the new site, called CONNECT.
Recipients of unemployment benefits have been required to file their claims online since 2011. Since then, the state has saved $4.7 million each year in administrative costs. That same year, the state approved the design of the new online system through the firm Deloitte Consulting firm for $63 million.

Now, Action News has obtained a letter that shows state leaders knew there could be problems more than a year ago.

A spokesperson for Department of Economic Opportunity tells us they attempted to cancel the Deloitte contract because deadlines weren’t being met in July 2012, but because the old system was about to fail, and a new contract would take too long, they developed a Corrective Action Plan to push the project along. Deloitte changed the project manager, hired more staff and paid more than $4 million in financial restitution.

But the new site still has problems, and thousands of frustrated users, who are unable to get a vital source of income.

The state says they’ve hired extra people to help correct the issues, which they promptly did for Jones. Because of that she’s hopeful the problems will soon go away.

“It's a continuing ever growing process. Unless they see what the technicalities are, they won't know how to fix them.”

On Wednesday, Senator Bill Nelson called for a federal investigation to make sure the site is fixed as soon as possible. In a letter to Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, Nelson said, “The main purpose behind this federal-state program is to help stabilize the economy during recessions. 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."

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