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State Trying to Fix Online Unemployment Claims System

More than a week after Florida launched a new $60 million computer system to handle unemployment claims, thousands of jobless Floridians are still having trouble accessing the system. Frustrated callers are now flooding phone lines at the Department of Economic Opportunity’s call center.

DEO has added 150 operators to handle all the extra calls coming in as a result of the new CONNECT website, designed to process people’s claims for unemployment benefits. It went online last week and immediately ran into trouble.

Thousands of people were unable to log onto the website, or they got error messages when they tried to file a jobless claim or update it. DEO executive director Jesse Panuccio says overall, the system is operational and has processed more than 100,000 claims in the first week. But he concedes several thousand people are having significant issues using the new system.

"We also have, on the technical side, teams of programmers that work in shifts around the clock to address issues. Our number one priority is helping claimants who are having issues and I want to assure every claimant that as long as they are legally entitled to the benefits they will still get them", promised Panuccio. "We will get to every claim."

Panuccio says the new computer system was desperately needed to replace a 35-year-old computer mainframe plagued with its own problems. He says DEO is working with the thousands of people who can’t access the new system and explaining solutions on the agency’s "Frequently Asked Questions" web page.