Thursday, October 09, 2014

Job Hunting In Florida 2014: Still A Nightmare

Remember the noise over Obamacare's website woes?

At least eventually got fixed within two months.  We've got a situation here in Florida where the state's unemployment benefit claims site has been broken for a full year since it got revamped (via Tampa Bay Times):
Despite promises from Gov. Rick Scott's administration that the state's new online unemployment system is fixed, unpaid claims keep mounting and Florida now ranks last in the nation at providing timely relief for jobless workers...
...Complaints like that are nothing new for CONNECT, the state's online filing system for unemployment benefits that 1.1 million workers rely on every year. Upon its launch — one year ago — it wrongly withheld payments from thousands of job seekers because of more than 100 technical defects. But after a series of emergency measures, a Scott appointee in March vowed that problems had been fixed.
"The bottom line is that we have resolved the delays caused by CONNECT's launch," Jesse Panuccio, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, told state senators in late March. "Service is now better than it was prior to CONNECT."
Federal labor statistics say otherwise.
In the year before CONNECT launched, Florida paid 78 percent of initial claims of up to $275 within two to three weeks, a federal benchmark that measures timeliness, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The claims Florida paid on time dropped to 48 percent, however, in the year since CONNECT launched, making it last in the nation.
And it could be getting worse. Based on preliminary data, only 27 percent were paid on time over the last three months...
I can tell you from my own perspective at the library where I work the CONNECT system is still a major headache.  There's been a good number - about six or seven new people in the last two weeks - of people trying to get into CONNECT only to run into roadblocks such as the database not confirming data or having their determination still on hold because a certain form hasn't been faxed or emailed to the main office.

Meanwhile, the county's employment offices - renamed CareerSource Polk - are still packed and overwhelmed with people needing help with filing claims and job-hunting.  I try to help as much as possible at the library, but since I'm not fully tied into the employment system there's only so much I can do, and I'm forced to refer our library users to those career offices where they'd have to wait for hours to get any help.  We had a mobile bus service that stopped by once a month (it'd be nice if CareerSource could set up offices in more cities around here) but the manager for that changed jobs two months ago and they haven't found a replacement yet (if ever).

And these people need help.  They are not for the most part tech-savvy.  I've had two of them confused by odd wording on their options.  They end up clicking menu choices that detour them from where they need to go.  We need a cleaner, more concise website.  Hell, we need more people to help out navigate these sites: we need to recognize that not everything can or should be all self-serve online, that our job-seekers need help.

And for all of this, the fact that the government is delaying their payments must be maddening.  No wonder that Times article notes that our real unemployment numbers - where work-capable people simply opt out - are worse than the official 6.2 percent in-state.

What's maddening for me is how this isn't a bigger story.  We're talking about a system's state-wide failure that's been going on for a full year now, and yet it's barely made a beep on the radar until now.  Here's hoping this story gets picked up and promoted as we head into the election, because this needs to be one more nail in Rick "What Part of FRAUD Did You Republican Voters Keep Overlooking" Scott's electoral coffin.  One big reason the CONNECT system hasn't been fixed is that the damn company paid to implement it is still getting money they haven't earned:
Despite the growing backlog, Deloitte's relationship with Florida did improve. In June, it negotiated a contract extension that pays the company another $1.5 million to fix its own errors.
Deloitte's contract extension ends Nov. 20, but gives the company the option to remain on the project another six months for up to $2.4 million... In all, Deloitte's total payday could be $49.6 million for the CONNECT job, 30 percent more than the contract's 2011 price...

Want a better working system, Florida?  Vote for Crist.  If Scott is in office by Nov. 20th, I guarantee you he'll sign Deloitte to a contract extension that will screw us Florida residents for even more money for bad service.

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