Florida residents attempting to check on the status of their unemployment benefits application or payments have limited hours to do that because the Department of Economic Opportunity take the CONNECT website down to the public on weekends and overnight to process a large number of claims.
The CONNECT system is used to process applications and payments by the DEO. Due to the sheer number of unemployment claims since mid-March, 1.7 million and counting, the DEO is using nights and weekends to work on sending payments and processing applications faster, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis said because the CONNECT system "was totally shot” the state considered building a new site but that would have taken a year. Instead the DEO uses the weekend to make changes to the website.
“What they are doing on the weekend because you’re seeing major spike on these Mondays and that’s great is they take the interface down ... and it allows them to make changes because the system has flawed architecture," DeSantis said Tuesday.
The governor has asked the inspector general to investigate the $77.9 million contract the CONNECT site was built under in 2013.
As of this week, the CONNECT system is available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., as well as the call center for general questions about unemployment benefits. However, the 1-833 FL APPLY (1-833-352-7759) hotline cannot answer claim specific questions.
“On the weekend, they do work but then they are processing all day and all night,” DeSantis said.
What about problems during business hours? Some trying to access CONNECT during the week between regular business hours may also experience difficulty logging on because the DEO is limiting the number of users who can be on the system at one time.
“The DEO is currently restricting access to the CONNECT system so that 100% of its processing power can be dedicated to processing current applications & making payments quickly,” the Florida agency said in a tweet.
The CONNECT system also only updates once a day which means people who log in and see a change will unlikely see any new information by logging on again the same day.
Anyone applying for re-employment assistance should make sure to include all information before submitting an application and verify that it is correct.
Department of Management Services Secretary John Satter, who is overseeing the coronavirus unemployment response, said one of the reasons Floridians are reporting they have yet to receive one payment more than a month after submitting an application for benefits could because of missing information.
Satter said a large number of applications the DEO is attempting to process are incomplete, either missing an employer identification number, social security number or contact information.
Anyone who was denied unemployment and applied prior to April 5 should reapply, according to the DEO, because they could be eligible for federal pandemic benefits.
“The last week or two has finally gotten us in a good spot but we’re not there yet,” DeSantis said Tuesday.