FORT MYERS, Fla. - Senator Bill Nelson is calling for a federal investigation into Florida's new $63 million unemployment website, which has been plagued with technical issues since it launched October 15. Yesterday, a Fox Four investigation discovered that state officials knew the system was having problems a month before it launched, but proceeded with the project anyway.
Nelson sent a letter today to the US Department of Labor asking for an investigation into the online unemployment claims system and whether Florida officials are doing everything they can to correct the problems.
"The main purpose behind this federal-state program is to help stabilize the economy during recessions," Nelson wrote. "But it certainly won't be of much help in my state if those who have lost their jobs face protracted delays in seeking or receiving benefits."
Florida Department of Economic Opportunities Press Secretary Jessica Sims acknowledged the site is still experiencing problems, although 230,000 claims have been processed so far. She didn't have an estimate as to how many users are still experiencing problems, or when users can expect all technical glitches to be fixed.
Sims said she understands users' frustrations and concerns.
"That's why we are working diligently, 24 hours a day, to make sure every claim is taking care of successfully," she said.
Tim Fulton, of Fort Myers, still can't file his unemployment claims on the new website. Fulton was laid off from his sales job last month and has been job searching since then.
"That's one of the reasons why I thought unemployment was in place, was to accommodate you while you were searching for a job," Fulton said. "It's very frustrating, you can start calling at 7 in the morning until 8 at night, numerous phone calls, and all you get is 'the lines are busy, call back later.'"
DEO officials encourage users to be patient with the system, but for Fulton, that's hard to do.
"It's hard to put gas in the car, hard to do the things you normally would do without getting a paycheck for five weeks," he said.