Company hired to do contact tracing is ‘relatively new’ in the field

Company has multi-million dollar contracts with the state of Florida

Florida taxpayers are paying tens of millions of dollars to two companies for the service, even though one of the companies has very little experience in the field.

Two weeks ago we told you about a Florida lawmaker calling for an investigation into Florida’s contact tracing program.

[RELATED: News 6 report prompts Florida lawmaker to call for investigation into state’s contact tracing program]

Florida taxpayers are paying tens of millions of dollars to two companies for the service, even though one of the companies has very little experience in the field.

Reggie Thomas says he tried over and over to apply online to become a contact tracer, but says his application went nowhere.

“It said to look for a welcome letter in your email and a welcome letter never showed up,” Thomas said.

Kathy Gayle said she tried as well.

"I have spent probably two months trying to make phone calls and go online and research how to become a contact tracer," Gayle said.

Both say they were applying through the Florida Department of Health which has hired two companies for contact tracing.

State Representative Rene Plasencia asked the House Healthcare Appropriations staff to investigate how contact tracing dollars are being spent after a News 6 report about Favorite Healthcare Staffing two weeks ago.

We've now learned the state of Florida also has contracts with a company called Maximus.

The company’s website said they have had success, but after being asked about the company’s experience, a company spokesperson, Lisa Miles, admitted their “contact tracing work is relatively new,” according to an email to News 6.

"But we are experienced in supporting government clients in achieving public health initiatives," Miles wrote.

Still, back in May, the Florida Department of Health entered a 6.2 million dollar contract with Maximus for COVID-19 contact tracing, according to a state database.

This month, two more contracts, one for $49.9 million and another for $13.8 million.

Daniel Bass is with Communications Workers of America, the nation’s largest communications labor union.

He said they have received numerous complaints from Maximus employees claiming to be overworked and underpaid.

"Maximus is a company that has a record of performance failures on state contracts," Bass said.

That's not the only accusation the company has ever faced.

News 6 has learned in 2007 the company agreed to pay more than 30 million dollars to the U.S Department of Justice to settle allegations their employees submitted false Medicaid claims for children in DC''s foster care system.

In a statement to News 6, a Maximus spokesperson wrote the work in D.C “did not uphold our integrity and values. Maximus took responsibility, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, and settled the civil case,” according to the statement.

"Generally the company's track record raises serious questions about whether Maximus meets the standards of a responsible contractor," Bass said.

Miles says Maximus is getting a significant number of qualified candidates for contact tracing but wrote “it’s important to go through our processes and procedures to ensure we onboard the most qualified candidates to support Florida in this vital work,” according to the statement.

Maximus has provided about 600 of the state’s 4,400 contact tracers, according to the Department of Health.

We asked the company for the best way to apply to be a contact tracer.

Applicants should go to the careers page of the website, type in contact tracer and it takes you directly to the open position. Click that and it takes you directly to the application process, according to Miles.

The Florida Department of Health recommends Individuals contact their county health departments for information on becoming a contact tracer in addition to checking People First for any job opportunities.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.