Report Details Proposed Changes to State's Unemployment System

NBC 6 Responds has reported on issues unemployed people have run into trying to get their unemployment benefits.

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Over the past year, people have told NBC 6 Responds about the challenges they faced applying for benefits using the state’s online unemployment portal - CONNECT. 

A new report released by Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity offers options on how to improve the state’s unemployment system. It was uploaded to the DEO’s website last week. 

Monday the Executive Director of the DEO Dane Eagle spoke to lawmakers about the findings of the independent report. 

According to the report, Florida receives “more claims in nine months than it had in the previous eight years combined. This unprecedented stress test revealed weaknesses in the CONNECT system that must be addressed.”

The report went on to say,  “In response, Florida scaled up the CONNECT system and staff and employed additional solutions like implementing robotic process automation, virtual waiting rooms, and a new system just for receiving new claims.” 

The report also revealed during 2020, approximately $39 million in emergency funding was spent to keep up with the influx of claims. 

The report is proposing four different options to improve the user’s experience with the CONNECT portal. 

The changes would include a new cloud-based system, creating departments for accountability and modernization, and creating a new user-friendly online system. 

The report says these changes could address issues users saw early on like having a hard time navigating the system, being booted off the system, and losing information when the system would crash. 

The price tag for these improvements could vary, but the report estimates funding for one of the plans alone would cost approximately $32 million this year and $40 million in the next fiscal year. 

During Monday’s Committee Meeting Director Eagle, also mentioned a proposal to hire 435 more employees to help with troubleshooting troubled claims. 

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