DEO website experiencing issues even as demand lessens for unemployment funds

It’s deja vu.

Complaints are rolling in again about the state’s unemployment website.

One person tweeted, “got bounced out and looped, no exaggeration, 50-plus times.

Another said, “get halfway done then kicks me back to the screen before logging in. for 4 hours now.”

Despite more people going back to work, problems with the website are not ending.

“Utterly ridiculous.”

It feels like we’ve been here before.

“It’s been slow,” said Karrina Wood who has been unemployed since April 2020. “It took over an hour and a half. Even trying to talk on chat you’d get booted. It’s been bad, the site has been so bad.”

The problems are reminiscent of last year, at the start of the pandemic, when so many people were forced to turn to unemployment benefits that it overwhelmed the system.

That’s what unemployed people have to deal with today, again.

“It’s just, it’s glitch after glitch,” Wood said. 

Now, Wood says she hasn’t been able to collect her benefits for more than nine weeks, in part because of an ID-verification issue.

And this week, the CONNECT website won’t let her log on.

“I would go and put in my social and stuff like that. And it would put me right back to the first page again. Now finally, when you would get logged in, then if you tried to click on anything else on your home screen, it would give you an error,” Wood said.

And when Wood tried to use the online chat option for help, she waited behind 370 other people for three hours until it crashed.

Friday, the DEO announced the chat is no longer available.

Instead, DEO is telling people to call or use their automated Help Center which DEO says is still being updated with more features.

All of the issues come at the same time that DEO is now requiring people to input their information on their job searches. The qualification was paused during the pandemic and only just now restarted.

Leading up to the reinstatement of work searches, DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said CONNECT was prepared to take that on.

“They’re already required to go in every two weeks and file their claims. And even though the job search requirements have been waived, those boxes were still there to be populated. So I don’t think there should be an issue,” Eagle said.

Meanwhile, for people like Wood, the situation feels hopeless.

“I thought this system was supposed to be fixed. And it just seems like it’s worse than what it was,” she said.

Last month Eagle said many of the roughly 435 new people DEO plans to hire will work behind the scenes of the new help center. He also said the website isn’t perfect but it’s working better than last year.

WINK News asked DEO why so many people are seeing issues with the website now, and a representative provided this statement a few days after this story aired:

“The CONNECT system has experienced an increase in user traffic this past week. The Department continuously updates the CONNECT system capacity and how claimant traffic is distributed among servers. Claimants should begin to see better performance when accessing CONNECT. During times of heavy traffic, users may be placed in the CONNECT Virtual Waiting Room while other users access the system. If users need immediate assistance, please encourage your viewers to utilize the Reemployment Assistance Help Center, here.

The Department remains committed and focused on making sure all eligible Floridians are paid the benefits they are owed and improving the Reemployment Assistance program. As part of the General Appropriations Act recently signed by the Governor, the Florida Legislature provided $92.4 million in state and federal funds for continued operations and to modernize the state’s unemployment system. This funding will allow DEO to provide a more user-friendly experience for claimants applying for Reemployment Assistance benefits. For more information on the Department’s roadmap to improving the Reemployment Assistance program, including the CONNECT system, please click here.”

 

Reporter:Sara Girard
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