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AP Florida

State accepting jobless claims, but system off to rocky start

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Published:   |   Updated: October 15, 2013 at 09:08 PM

Florida launched its revamped $63 million computer-based system for unemployment claims Tuesday, with officials noting daylong system improvements while frustrated users said otherwise in Facebook and Twitter posts.

Florida’s new jobless claim website, called Connect, processed information from 18,916 individuals who filed continuing claims and another 2,402 who filed initial claims, said Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“The big picture is we feel good so far,” Panuccio said. “Any major startup is going to have minor technical issues. As we adjusted settings (to respond to technical pressure points) the system cleared up significantly.”

Problems were anticipated for the new jobless claims website following a week when people were unable to apply for unemployment benefits during the transition from a system that was 30-plus years old to the new network.

Florida’s vendor for Connect, Deloitte Consulting, was previously involved in switching to new jobless claims systems in California and Massachusetts, which were problematic, according to reports.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Facebook page revealed dozens of terse messages from people who said they were encountering difficulties on Tuesday.

“Hope there is a class action lawyer looking at this site,” one message read. “What they have done to the laid off workers of Florida who are seeking employment is wrong.”

“I am trying to log on and enter my job searches and I am getting this error page,” another message read.

“... I was told I had to have my job searches entered today or I would not get my check for the last 2 weeks. How long do I have to get this info entered and can I still get on the old system to do it today?”

Panuccio said the department’s effort to be transparent by soliciting comments on Facebook and through Twitter was bound to draw critical comments, but it was important that people gave state officials an idea of what was happening throughout the day so they could attempt technical and other adjustments.

Some misinformation involved call center operators providing incorrect information, such as wrong web addresses. The correct website is floridajobs.org/connect.

“You try to be transparent and you cross your fingers,” Panuccio said. “Those comments helped us see what was trending in the call centers. What you saw today in the system getting better is what should continue the rest of the week.”

tjackovics@tampatrib.com

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