House and Senate budget negotiators have agreed to put $56.6 million into the 2021-2022 spending plan for the state’s troubled unemployment system. Meanwhile, the House has offered — with conditions — to meet the Senate on spending another $36 million to overhaul the CONNECT online unemployment system, which became overwhelmed last spring as the coronavirus pandemic caused massive job losses.
The proposed House funding is contingent on the hiring of a vendor and approval of a detailed work plan.
Dane Eagle, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, has said that retaining the CONNECT system, which cost $81 million to set up a decade ago, is “not an option.”
Eagle has outlined a multi-year project aimed at upgrading the process of making claims, expanding contact center staffing and shifting stored data to a cloud-based portal with a company such as Amazon or Google.
Meanwhile, House and Senate negotiators also agreed to provide $9.098 billion planned for the annual Department of Transportation work program.
Gov. Ron DeSantis had suggested adding $938.4 million to the work program from $10.1 billion the state is expected to get from the American Rescue Plan federal stimulus package.
In recent months, state transportation officials cut or delayed 77 road projects from a five-year plan to make up $763 million from lost gas taxes, rental car fees, toll collections and other state and federal sources during the pandemic.