CONNECT, Florida’s unemployment website, has been criticized for having a laundry list of unresolved problems since it began. Now, its oversight agency is being treated to a long-overdue audit.
CONNECT was launched in October of 2013, and according to the audit’s findings, and accounts from frustrated Floridians, it’s been fraught with pitfalls ever since.
At an audit hearing, Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Duval) was less than impressed by the department’s lack of resolution.
“So, then every item is not fixed and the potential for failure still exists?” Gibson pressed.
In the hot seat was the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Director of Workforce Services, Tom Clendenning.
“I would answer that by saying, I suppose there’s always an opportunity for failure, but while the overwhelming majority of the issues have been fixed, there’s still work being done,” Clendenning says.
One of the most prominent complaints is that the site requires users to submit their social security numbers in order to sign up. The legality of this practice was called into question by the report.
However, Clendenning maintained that, in the last 15 years, “No reviewing authority has ever flagged this as contrary to state law.”
Other concerns, such as problems with fraud, incorrect data being entered by the system itself, erroneous charges, clients being dropped, payments being late or inconsistent and a lack of accountability were also mentioned in the audit.
Lawmakers, like Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) say that the department and their clients have experienced a failure to communicate. Mayfield recalls the story of one of her constituents.
“Another constituent had an employee quit, moved out of state to get a job, was fired from there, came back and filed for unemployment, and they were getting unemployment from Florida, and the employer was never made aware of it until he called to find out why his claim went up,” Mayfield says.
Clendenning blames to the messy nature of beurocracy.
“Now, in an imperfect world, that doesn’t necessarily mean the notice got to that business,” Clendenning says. “Occasionally it doesn’t happen. Occasionally, the wrong person sees it and the right person doesn’t see it to respond.”’
There will be a follow-up audit, but it’s scheduled for next year, and Gibson says she doesn’t think that’s acceptable, given the amount of issues with the site.
“I was hoping to hear a much better report,” Gibson said after the audit. “And another audit a year from now doesn’t give me much satisfaction or much confidence in what’s going on at DEO.”
In its written response to the audit’s findings, the department says: “the DEO does not agree with a significant number of findings in the auditor’s narrative.”