The state’s $40 million unemployment benefits system known as CONNECT has not served the taxpayers who paid for it, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Monday as he called for an investigation to figure out why.
“I am going to be directing the inspector general (to look) into how the CONNECT system was paid for, the amendments to the contract,” DeSantis said.
As of Sunday (May 3rd) 1,047,839 Confirmed Unique Claims had been submitted, 312,090 claims remained in the Claim Verification Queue, 735,749 claims had been processed and 478,666 claimants had been paid a total of $979,196,419.
DeSantis reviewed all the of steps taken to speed up a system he has said at previous briefings was “designed to fail.”
“We had a situation where this thing just wasn’t going to cut it,” he said, explaining that it would take 30 days to create a new website.
“We thought about doing it by hand,” he said, but too many data bases that needed to be pinged to verify data such as social security numbers.
DeSantis directed a team to rebuild some of the architecture, increase capacity, get rid of bad code, and clean out the system, he said.
“Some people couldn’t access the systems 60, 70, 80 percent of the time it was down,” he said, “This created a huge source of angst.”
Steps to speed up claims processing included setting up a mobile site, paper applications were printed and mailed in by FedEx printed, and more call center agents were added.
In order to get money out faster, DeSantis said he suspended job search requirements, he added automatic claims re-certifying.
“State employees responded in force to get the money out,” he said. “People working through the night and weekends.”
Engineers made changes to the systems that increased transfer speed, made huge optimizations, and stabilized the system, he said.
He also said the Highway Safety Motor Vehicle data base was brought in to verify social security numbers and that “removed a bottleneck.”
There were 72 new servers installed, 2,000 additional employees brought onboard and a chat bot added to floridajobs.org.
“Once you got into late April the system was running better,” DeSantis said.
The engineers said unemployment is complicated,” DeSantis said about the CONNECT system. “But the way it was done was not worth the amount of money.”
An unemployment dashboard has been created for monitoring claims. Click here to see the latest figures: