Fla. unemployment department evasive about overpayments to furloughed workers

unemployment office 2How many furloughed federal workers received unemployment assistance from the state of Florida as a result of the government shutdown?

Who knows?

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, responsible for issuing unemployment benefits, is unable to provide that information despite the rollout of its new $63 million “reemployment” website last week.

The website, called CONNECT, has had anything but a smooth debut.

Reports of unemployed workers unable to log in or receive payments have been widely documented. The agency’s Facebook page contains numerous accounts of website problems to which DEO has responded. The agency has also issued updates through its Twitter feed and FAQ page.

Department spokesperson, Jessica Sims, said in an email that DEO was converting unemployment data from its old system to the new CONNECT system for six days during the 16-day government shutdown that began Oct. 1.

During that six-day transition, “the new reemployment system was unavailable to process initial claims,” she said.

Prior to that, Sims said 1,986 federal claims were filed from Oct. 1 to Oct. 9.

No further information was available to Florida Watchdog regarding the number of federal claimants that received unemployment assistance or the total dollar amount DEO paid out, as of Wednesday afternoon.

When asked if furloughed workers would have to pay back state unemployment benefits after receiving back pay from their government employers, Sims said she didn’t know.

“The U.S. Department of Labor will provide guidance as to whether or not back pay will be considered wages,” she said. “We cannot say if overpayments will be established until guidance is received.”

Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org 

Published with permission from Watchdog.org


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