DEO director presents ambitious plan to fix Florida’s unemployment system

$73 million plan would blend high-tech improvements with ‘recycled parts from the past’

Department of Economic Opportunity Director Dane Eagle presented an aggressive blueprint to revamp the struggling Connect unemployment system on Monday with a proposed expense sheet of $73.3 million over the next two fiscal years.

According to Eagle, the money is needed to invest in cloud migration, software architecture and business process optimization along with more than 430 new employees to meet the anticipated high level of unemployment claims.

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“Obviously as claims come down and the system becomes modernized, we expect that base budget to shrink significantly,” Eagle said.

Eagle’s presentation came before the Senate Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response followed by a rigorous round of questions by the committee.

He was quick to defend the Connect staff and its “tireless effort” to meet the high demand for benefits triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The independent consultant’s audit included a stark comparison of initial unemployment claims for eight years between Jan.1, 2012 and March 14, 2020 and the 11 months that followed.

During the eight years, initial claims reached 4.2 million while the 11 ”pandemic months” from March 15, 2020 to Feb. 10, 2021 saw 5.3 million claims.

The so called “modernization- effort” would use a combination of custom development, commercial off-the-shelf software and what he called “recycled parts from the past”

Eagle told the committee he has 30 days to respond to a separate audit by the inspector general’s office.

“I’m all for doing it as quickly as possible so we can move forward and fix the problems at hand that (the) governor has tasked me to do,” Eagle said.

The 2021 legislative session officially starts Tuesday.

To review the full independent report, click here.

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