Good News: DEO's Unemployment Website CONNECT Now Delivering
Around the State
Has anybody else noticed that the Department of Economic Opportunity's unemployment website is fully rolling? Maybe we can finally cease fire.
Read the DEO's daily updates on CONNECT. Ninety days after the worst bugs in the massive IT transformation stole Thanksgiving and Christmas for many jobless Floridians who had no access to their money, the $63 million website is performing as originally promised.
"As of today, there are approximately 13,000 individuals with at least one week on hold pending adjudication and the active caseload is being worked down at record levels. This number represents a caseload far below what had been normal in the Legacy system.
"On Sunday, February 9, there were 755 unique phone numbers comprising 1,072 calls to the call center and there were 711 live customer interactions, which means that 94 percent of distinct calls placed were handled."
Tom Morgan, an out-of-work road engineer from Citrus County, told me Monday, "This morning I got on (the system) and sorted myself out in 15 minutes, so I can't complain. Works for me."
Says Jesse Panuccio, DEO executive director, “There are now fewer claimants in adjudication than prior to the launch of CONNECT and DEO’s Re-employment Assistance adjudication unit is processing more claims now than in the Legacy system. Significant progress has been made in the CONNECT system in recent weeks."
Panuccio attributes the progress to "the combination of increased staff, system workarounds, and improved functionality in CONNECT."
Since the launch on Oct. 15, 2013, more than 1.5 million total claims have been filed using CONNECT and more than $406 million has been paid to claimants."
Certainly, it's been no picnic for anybody involved to get to this point. In 2011, the state's 30-year-old Legacy claims system was inefficient, failing and had to be replaced. But this IT transformation was a massive undertaking -- it was for New York-based CONNECT contractor Deloitte, it would have been for any company -- and like the feds during the Obamacare roll-out, the state made a mistake when it set deadlines it knew couldn't be kept, and announced them to a hapless public that must depend on them.
What started out as a $68 million job ended up closer to $63 million because of the $4.5 million in restitution the contractor paid for missed deadlines. In the end, Deloitte switched project managers and hired more staff in Tallahassee.
Under growing pressure, facing an overwhelming task and consummate problems, the DEO, the contractor, certainly the patient Floridians caught up in the changeover -- all of them deserve a salute for slogging through the obstacle course and persevering through the last three months just about as planned.
People might have forgotten what Panuccio said in November, during a legislative hearing shortly after the launch of the CONNECT system:
“What I have heard Deloitte tell me a few times over the last few weeks – their experience in other states -- is that the first month is the worst month. By 30 days out, you see many fewer frustrations and queries. By 60 days out, you are truly in the one-off situations. And, by 90 days out, you see the full benefits of the system. That is the estimate we have been given. Of course, situations can vary.”
It's been 90 days.
As my friend Amy who works at DEO told me triumphantly, "Baby, we're rockin' and rollin' now."
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.