(Tallahassee, FL) — A lawsuit being heard today that could speed up payments of unemployment benefits in Florida.
Florida has been the slowest state in the nation at processing coronavirus-related unemployment claims, and it’s lagged behind much smaller states in simply getting money into the hands of its citizens.
The state is being sued for problems with the website people use to file unemployment claims. Less than half of those who have applied for benefits have gotten paid.
A judge in Tallahassee will hear arguments, virtually, today. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs hope a judge will order the state to pay benefits immediately to everyone who has yet to receive anything.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will ask his office of inspector general to investigate the contract with the company that built Florida’s broken unemployment website seven years ago.
DeSantis said he wants the inspector general, an office that was created in 1994 to provide internal oversight of state agencies, to investigate how the state spent $77.9 million on the website, CONNECT, and how the contract was amended numerous times.
“There’s a lot of money that went in to this,” DeSantis said. “I think everything needs to be looked at, 100%.”
The announcement of an investigation into a past administration was a rare rebuke of his predecessor, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. The two Republicans have become political rivals, and Scott was quick to cast an eye on DeSantis’ chief of staff, Shane Strum, on Monday.
Strum was chief of staff for former Gov. Charlie Crist when Deloitte Consulting was awarded the multimillion-dollar contract a few months before Scott took office. Scott oversaw the development and rollout of the site, which launched in 2013.
DeSantis has continued to blame Florida’s unemployment crisis on the seven-year-old CONNECT, calling it a “jalopy” in past press conferences.
On Monday, DeSantis said the system was so bad that the system would have been overwhelmed even in a slight recession.
“If we had anything other than 3 or 4 percent unemployment, this would have been a problem,” DeSantis said. “So that’s not a good use of taxpayer money.”