A recent audit of Florida's unemployment system is raising questions about the agency’s data, among other issues.
The report released by Florida’s Auditor General points out issues including the Department of Economic Opportunity’s inability to provide accurate data, keep track of claimants’ paperwork, and fix system glitches linked to overpayments during certain periods of the pandemic.
According to the report, "The FDEO could not provide complete and accurate data for the period April 2020 through June 2020 to demonstrate that UI (unemployment insurance) benefit payments were made only to eligible claimants in the correct amounts."
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The DEO agreed with the findings in the report, saying it is working "to produce this data" in a new report.
The department also stated in its response, "This influx of claims from impacted Floridians, as well as the demand on system resources, severely impacted CONNECT’s performance. Performance issues impacted the production of large reports with detailed data, which included the report used by the Auditor General for auditing purposes."
They went on to say, "The production of this report was unavailable during the April through June 2020 period, and subsequent attempts to produce this report were not successful. The Department continued with efforts to produce this data through the end of the audit. DEO has subsequently developed a report to meet the requirements of the Auditor General, and the report is in final review for implementation."
State auditors also found what they called "indexing issues." According to the report, documents received by the DEO with missing information were saved for future investigation but were ultimately purged after 30 days of unsuccessful research.
"I am both angry but not surprised by this audit," State Rep. Anna Eskamani said.
Eskamani told NBC 6 there are systematic issues that need to be addressed at the DEO.
“We need more staff, we need to completely upgrade the system into a cloud-based server, and there is legislation working to do that,” Eskamani said.
She pointed out House Bill 1463, which includes system upgrades and is making its way through the state legislature. If passed, it would also give out-of-work people the right to request a second look at how much money they can get and give employers fewer days to respond to the DEO.
But these changes come at a cost.
“It has a price tag of over $200 million, but I do think it is an expense that is necessary to ensure that whatever benefits are available people can actually get them,” Eskamani said.
Marcia Dominguez is among them.
After applying for unemployment benefits, she told NBC 6 she had been locked out of her account ten times.
“This happens to me every other month,” Dominguez said. “They (the DEO) say unfortunately your account is locked and they have no access to look into your account at that moment.”
NBC 6 reached out to the DEO about the audit and we have not heard back.
We also reached out to the DEO about Dominguez’s case. In an email, they told us, “Thank you for contacting the Department of Economic Opportunity. We appreciate you sending this information over. I will be sure to send this to the team for a closer look.”
Dominguez later told us her issue was resolved.