Joe Gruters on $77 million unemployment website: Someone should go to jail

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Gruters says his mom has been trying to file for unemployment for two weeks without success.

The Department of Economic Opportunity is reverting to paper unemployment applications as its failing website continues to struggle to accommodate Floridians trying to claim benefits.

“From my heart, I apologize for what you’re going through,” DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson said in a Thursday virtual Facebook town hall. 

Lawson said the office received 1.5 million calls in the last week, with a third of them just coming from Floridians needing to reset their PIN numbers. They must have PINs to log in to the website.

But at least one lawmaker, Sen. Joe Gruters, is furious that $77 million in federal taxpayer funding has been spent on what’s essentially a broken down website. That figure is $14 million more than originally estimated. 

He doesn’t blame former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration or current Gov. Ron DeSantis. He blames the vendor Deloitte Consulting and says someone should go to jail.

“It’s just a complete boondoggle,” he said. “It’s incredibly disappointing because as a senator, I’ve had tons of people, I can’t even tell you how many, come to tell me what a disaster it is.  My own mother has tried to file over 100 times without success.”

Gruter’s mom was working as a cashier when she was laid off. He says she’s been trying to file for unemployment for two weeks with no luck. And he’s been powerless to help.

“You’d think as a state senator, I’d be able to help her out,” he said. “But I can’t. I just tell her to be patient.”

In a further blow to Gruter’s mom, Lawson says benefits can only be paid retroactively to the date someone files a claim, despite of the website problems people have been encountering. Sen. Annette Taddeo wants it to go back to when they lost their jobs.

The website has had problems long before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. In fact, even before the site launched and once it did launch.

DeSantis was warned last year through a state audit that the website was suffering from major system issues, such as glitches, error messages and other problems, going back to the 2015 audit. But there appears to be no serious attempt by the state to solve those issues, judging by 2016 and 2019 audits. 

Deloitte implemented the CONNECT system in 2013, during Scott’s administration.

Sarah Mueller

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to [email protected]


8 comments

  • Come on

    April 3, 2020 at 7:00 am

    The RPOF chairman wants to incarcerate someone for a civil dispute arising out of a contract that republican administrations awarded, funded, and managed.

    Pretty weak. These guys need to be thrown out of office.

    • Phil Morton

      April 3, 2020 at 9:26 am

      There you go. They should take responsibility for the monster they purposely created.

  • Trev

    April 3, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Those aren’t bugs, they are features

    • Sonny H

      April 3, 2020 at 5:08 pm

      LOL — features to keep people from applying … One thing I didn’t mention on another post is the 30 minute time set up on a page with at least 45 questions with more bubbles to answer yes or no than there are questions and a place at the end to upload to documents that are vaguely asked for. After uploading them, it states to not upload them without a cover sheet…. if you surpass the 30 minute timer, all is erased if you didn’t click save. THEN if you DO upload, you still get an URGENT alert in your inbox in the system that your claim will not be evaluated without uploading the requested documents ..that they state over and over NOT to send docs twice .. yet set up the system so that you have to send twice. I sent mine along with a print screen of the website crash screen I received 5 times between 3am-530am (Purposely trying to apply during low volume) .. all of the questions did not even apply to me and they immediately set my file up for an Audit as I was stating I was self employed (core benefits of the legislation passed on Friday included support for the first time ever for this group…. the first CoVid death in Pinellas County was a Realtor…the National Assoc of Realtors worked for 3 weeks to insure inclusion of benefits for its 187,000 members in Florida and 1.4 million in the US — the largest trade organization..at the same time they negotiated on behalf of all self employed forced to shut down for safety reasons and who subsequently saw their cash flow dry up… it was a kick in the face to see that the one of the largest States in the US could not even correct the PDF uploaded to the CONNECT website on COVid Frequently Asked Questions .. very disturbing. Senator Rick Scott should be called in and when questions about Medicaid for single men without children come up, forward them to his personal cell phone. We now know they were looking to downsize the agency even more prior to this crisis. The news media on local NBC channel advised everyone to contact their state and national reps and senators.. even knowing the average American can not navigate the complex and completely overcomplicated online system, they did nothing. It’s quite apparent it was as strategy to reduce reported unemployment numbers as a result of people giving up. I remember thinking that my parents would never have been able to navigate such a system.

  • Nancy Wilcox

    April 4, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Rick Scott will burn in hell for how he has treated Floridians. People are desperate and crippled by the intentionally cumbersome and faulty system he (and his campaign contributors) designed to deny benefits to those most in need. Way to go, Senator!

  • Chris

    April 5, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Rick Scott was the lead man in a huge Medicare fraud. Yet he was elected as Governor after this well known fact was made public. All politicians are in office because we elected them. And we continue to elect them regardless of their past sins. Why is that? I think it’s mainly because most voters could care less.. we vote for our party.

    I say we just shut up. How can people complain about a person’s work ethic after blindly voting for him?

  • Seth Sklarey

    April 5, 2020 at 10:49 pm

    Rick Scott and his stooge Jesse Panucchio should go to jail.
    Scott for conspiracy to violate our civil rights under color of law and Panucchio for being an incompetent stooge who wasted $77 million dollars on a stystem the never worked. Deloitte should be sued for the $77 million.

  • George Balsamo

    April 10, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    I applied for unemployment and I can’t claim my weeks what’s the problem? Do I pay taxes for nothing. Al Capone was right

Comments are closed.


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