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Governor Ron DeSantis to address unemployment system issues

(WSAZ)
Published: May. 3, 2020 at 4:05 PM CDT
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Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will hold a news conference Monday to address the state’s much-criticized CONNECT unemployment compensation system.

“The system just totally broke. It's not a good system. We're going to deal with that,” DeSantis said Sunday during an appearance at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

Since March 15, the state has received 1.78 million unemployment applications, of which more than 1 million are considered “unique,” as some people filed more than one claim. As of Saturday, 452,526, or 44.1 percent, of the unique applicants, had started to receive weekly state unemployment checks of up to $275.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity said more than $700 million has been paid out to applicants, of which $428.6 million, or 61 percent, is money from a federal stimulus program. Complaints continue about the CONNECT online system going down as people fill out applications and about a large number of people being deemed ineligible for benefits.

Overwhelmed by claims starting in mid-March, the Department of Economic Opportunity opened a backup online site for new claims and allowed people to fill out paper applications.

The department also scrambled to bring in new computer servers and hired contractors and shifted state employees to handle the new data and answer phone calls from applicants.

Last month, DeSantis removed the Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson from the management of the CONNECT system, putting oversight in the hands of the Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter.

DeSantis, who has waived several requirements to ease the unemployment application process, said there will be an investigation of how the state paid $77 million to set up the CONNECT system, which went live in 2013.

Democrats, who have pushed to expand the state’s benefits, have called for audits that also would look into how recently proposed upgrades have not been implemented and how claims have been handled in the current crisis. State benefits last 12 weeks.

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