Gov. DeSantis says an investigation is “going to need to be done” on the unemployment server

Updated: May. 1, 2020 at 1:44 PM EDT
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The pandemic has cost thousands of Floridians their jobs.

As nearly one million unique unemployment claims have been filed, thousands are awaiting payments from the state.

“You go back four weeks and the system was in tatters, people couldn’t even get on. There’s going to be a whole investigation that’s going to need to be done on how the state of Florida could’ve paid 77 million for this thing however many years ago they did,”said Governor Ron DeSantis at a news conference on Friday.

He says he had to bring in engineers to effectively rebuild the system.

“It’s been the number one non-health priority that we’ve had. And we’ve mobilized so many people in state government to be able to do it,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

State representatives say last weekend the CONNECT page was down for the public so they could devote 100% of its capacity to doing payments.

The DEO dashboard shows so far 426,623 unique claimants have been paid. Governor DeSantis says for perspective all of last year the state of Florida paid out 326,000 claimants. He says the system has had a lot of problems and was overwhelmed so it couldn’t hold up.

“You have some people that are applying through CONNECT, Pega, and through a paper application. So those obviously you know you got to filter those out. You only have to do one. But we’re gotten hundreds of thousands, I think, paper applications too,” said DeSantis.

The Governor says he has 2,000 employees from various state agencies that were transitioned to work in unemployment. He says more improvements need to be made to the system but says the people at the DEO have been working really hard.

We reached out to the office of former Governor Rick Scott’s office about this matter since he was in office when the unemployment website was established and this is the statement his team sent:

“Every state in the country is struggling to deal with the unprecedented volume of suddenly unemployed workers. Everyone should be focused on getting relief to people who need it as fast as possible. Senator Scott worked with his colleagues to significantly boost unemployment benefits in the CARES Act and will continue work on policies that help the people who have been hurt by this crisis.”

We followed up and asked for a comment after Governor DeSantis mentioned his plans to investigate the unemployment system, this is what Senator Scott’s office replied:

“The Governor should ask his Chief of Staff why the Crist Administration picked Deloitte as the vendor. That would be a good place to start. Right now, every state in the country is struggling to handle the unprecedented volume of suddenly unemployed workers. The important thing is to get relief to people who need it as fast as possible. Crises like this are immune to dumb political squabbles. Real leaders work to solve problems and get the job done. Senator Scott is focused on solving problems to help the people of Florida during this crisis.”

Amid frustrations from Floridians attorneys in Tallahassee are leading a class action lawsuit against the DEO and Deloitte.

The attorneys tell ABC 7 on Friday afternoon that Governor DeSantis was taken off the lawsuit because this was an issue he inherited from a previous administration.

They also told ABC 7 they have several whistle blowers who say people at the DEO and Deloitte have said many weren’t deserving of unemployment benefits and they should get off of their behinds and work.

“White collar and blue collar. Young professionals, men and women in small businesses desperate for help and relieve,” said attorney Gautier Kitchen.

Those are the kinds of people the attorneys are representing to debunk alleged claims made by Deloitte and the DEO.

“The system has never worked and it certainly isn’t working right now,” said Kitchen.

As thousands who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic await benefits two Florida attorneys on mission to get action now for Floridians.

“An emergency motion to have the issues that we have in the mandamus which is to force the state of Florida to pay these benefits immediately,” said Attorney Marie Mattox.

Mattox says that will be heard in court during a case management hearing next week.

They say the writ of mandamus is to help not only the people listed in their legal papers but everyone impacted by the same issues across the state.

Mattox and Kitchen say the lawsuit against the DEO and Deloitte will likely not play all the way out in court for another year.

We asked the DEO for comment on the lawsuit and they said the department does not comment on pending litigation.