Governor directs inspector general investigate Florida unemployment system

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Gov. Ron DeSantis (Credit: WINK News)

Gov. Ron DeSantis is directing the Florida inspector general to investigate the CONNECT system.

This comes just hours after the agriculture commissioner asked for an investigation into Florida’s unemployment system.

Many community members have called us about problems they’ve encountered since losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor says he wants to look at how the CONNECT system was paid for and wants to look at CONNECT’S contract. He says this is something that’s important for people in Florida to know.

“If you look at the different costs, there’s a lot of money that went into this,” DeSantis said publicly. “To pay that much money and all the problems to deal with is a big problem.”

The governor says CONNECT was contracted in 2011 and paid a firm $40 million, but the costs totaled nearly $78 million. And a reason for a CONNECT slowdown is data buildup up over the years.

“We had to get engineers and understand the thing was flawed and increase the capacity and get rid of bad code,” DeSantis said. “And get out things that cluttered the system.”

And that’s why DeSantis wants an investigation. He says he wants to make sure people receive the money to make ends meet.

“If they see the money show up, it’s better economically,” DeSantis said. “Also, it will give them peace of mind. They were wondering when this is going to happen.

But it’s going to take time.

The new head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity says many people are clearly eligible, but the system is deeming them ineligible.

“If someone is eligible, they will receive those benefits from the time they are unemployed until their ineligible is running out,” Jonathan Satter said. “It’s guaranteed.”

Satter says his team needs to call thousands of people to make it right and to make sure they can get their money.

“With the volume of applications we’ve received, we are going to have to a few errors,” Satter said. “It’s not more than a few. It’s 1,000. We have to do some cleanup.”

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wrote a letter to the state’s chief inspector general formally requesting an investigation.

Desantis says he will consider a request to bar future contracts with Deloitte Consulting, which had the largest portion of the contract in setting up CONNECT.

Florida Democrats said they would welcome legislative hearings on CONNECT.

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