Florida’s unemployed fear new issues with unemployment system due to increase in demand

Benefit recipients must resume re-certification on Florida CONNECT website

Florida’s unemployed fear new issues with unemployment system due to increase in demand
Florida’s unemployed fear new issues with unemployment system due to increase in demand

Jobless Floridians wishing to receive unemployment benefits must now log on to the state’s unemployment website every two weeks to affirm they are still unemployed, a requirement that has some fearing a repeat of computer problems that originally plagued the benefit application process.

To minimize the number of users overloading the state’s unemployment computer system called CONNECT, last month Gov. Ron DeSantis temporarily eliminated a requirement that claimants must regularly return to the website to verify their employment status.

The governor also waived an additional rule that claimants prove they are actively searching for a new job.

Beginning this week, although the work search requirement remains waived through May 30, claimants must once again re-certify their need for for unemployment benefits.

“To comply with federal law, claimants will be required to return to the CONNECT system every two weeks to request their benefits or ‘claim their weeks’,” said a spokesperson for Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.

Although state officials have spent millions of dollars upgrading the agency’s computer infrastructure, some benefit-seekers are concerned they may once again have problems using the state website due to an increased volume of Floridians logging on.

“I work for a major retailer across the U.S. and when we know Black Friday is happening, it’s going to crash our (computer) systems,” said Joann Lewis.

Even though Lewis has received several unemployment benefit payments, she is concerned that issues with the state website will make it harder for her to collect future payments.

“I think we’re going to see the system crash. We’re going to see a lot of network errors happening,” predicted Lewis, who is unsure when she will return to her job in the retail industry.

Charon Hannick, who was furloughed from her job in Central Florida’s hospitality industry last month, has already experienced problems trying to re-certify on the state’s website.

“It took me three tries today to log in,” Hannick said.

After she was eventually able to fill out several online forms detailing her current employment status, Hannick learned she would need to return to the state website later in the week to finish the re-certification process.

“That all took about two hours for about 15 minutes of input,” Hannick said.

Lewis is concerned that potential computer problems will hurt jobless Floridians and make it difficult for the state employees who are trying to distribute payments.

“(DEO employees) are having to deal with all these issues as well. When the system isn’t working for us, it isn’t working for them either,” Lewis said.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.