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Florida unemployment office severs ties with two call centers tasked with helping claimants

Florida has paid out more than $9 billion in unemployment claims.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency tasked with managing state unemployment claims, confirmed Tuesday night they have severed ties with two call center vendors tasked with assisting out-of-work Floridians.

According to a DEO spokesperson, the agency cut ties with Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM and Miami-based technology firm UDT.

“As the Department works to continue to improve the customer service provided to claimants during this unprecedented time, the Department is prioritizing vendors who have fully trained representatives to handle all claimant issues and are more proficient in the CONNECT system, are meeting or exceeding contractual performance expectations and providing high quality customer service to Floridians,” said DEO Communications Director Tiffany Vause. “Vendors who are not providing as high quality services will not continue to provide services at this time.”

The department did not specify a reason for the separation. However, the agency  said it will prioritize vendors who possess “higher skilled and fully trained representatives.”

Despite the cuts, DEO is presently funding more than 3,000 customer representatives who are tasked with addressing Reemployment Assistance claims.

The claims can help the millions of unemployed Floridians find work and monetary assistance if eligible.

“The Department will continue to monitor resource demands and needs to ensure service levels for Floridians will continue to improve,” Vause said. “The Department remains committed to helping eligible Floridians receive their Reemployment Assistance benefits as quickly as possible.”

The cuts were first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

As of July 8, Florida has paid out more than $9 billion in unemployment claims to almost 1.66 million claimants, according to the Governor’s office.

The state’s unemployment system has suffered intense scrutiny from all political sides since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Florida in March. Since that time, Florida has faced a barrage of claims while officials struggled to scale up a website to handle demand.

In early May, Gov. Ron DeSantis authorized Inspector General Melinda Miguel to launch an investigation into the CONNECT system failures.

DeSantis said getting answers about the site’s shortcomings was “very important for people.”

“A lot of money went into this site,” and “people want an accounting,” DeSantis said.

Written By

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capitol for Florida Politics. After a term with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studies Political Science, American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

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