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Audit: Florida’s Unemployment System Waylaid by Bad Design

An inspector general probe into Florida’s failed unemployment system found it was never prepared to handle even a modest amount of jobless claims, much less the historic number of claims that crushed it in the pandemic.

by Lawrence Mower, Tampa Bay Times / March 5, 2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during a news conference at NBC Sports Grill & Brew at Universal CityWalk in Orlando, Fla., on June 3, 2020. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) TNS

(TNS) — An inspector general probe into Florida’s failed unemployment system found that the system was never prepared to handle even a modest amount of jobless claims, much less the historic number of claims that crushed it during the pandemic last year.

In the report, released by Gov.  Ron DeSantis  on Thursday, Chief Inspector General  Melinda Miguel  found that state officials provided poor oversight and never fixed longstanding problems with the online system, known as CONNECT.

The report found:

Despite its original guidelines, the Department of Economic Opportunity never held Deloitte to that higher 200,000 number. After the state scrambled to beef up CONNECT during the pandemic, adding 72 additional servers, it can still only handle 100,000 concurrent users — half of what was promised.","type":"text

The company hired to independently evaluate CONNECT before it went live in 2013, Ernst & Young, was “neither fully independent nor adequately rigorous,” the inspector general wrote. The company was paid more than $2 million for its services, but paid the state back $500,000 in 2015.","type":"text

CONNECT had so many defects and problems that when it went live in 2013 it violated the state’s contract with Deloitte.","type":"text

Those defects and problems with CONNECT persisted. State auditors flagged them in 2015, 2016 and 2019. Despite that clear record, neither the administrations of Gov.  Rick Scott  nor DeSantis remedied the errors. Of the 31 issues auditors flagged in 2015, 14 remain unfixed.","type":"text

After investigating CONNECT, Chief Inspector General  Melinda Miguel  recommended state leaders adhere to basic — and obvious — oversight and governance of its information technology projects, including:

Ensure agency heads resolve technical problems flagged by state auditors","type":"text

Move CONNECT’s replacement into the cloud, where it can better handle extreme workloads","type":"text

The inspector general’s investigation was requested by DeSantis last year, after CONNECT failed amid a crush of jobless claims triggered by the pandemic. DeSantis said at the time he believed the system was designed to fail, although the report doesn’t appear to address that assertion.

The inspector general’s investigation was requested by DeSantis last year, after CONNECT failed amid a crush of jobless claims triggered by the pandemic. DeSantis said at the time he believed the system was designed to fail, although the report doesn’t appear to address that assertion.

(c)2021 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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