Could Florida's troubled unemployment website become a campaign issue?

CREATED Dec. 12, 2013

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FLORIDA -- New revelations suggest Florida's troubled, new $63 million unemployment website could become a campaign issue in the 2014 gubernatorial race.  

Since the website launched Oct. 15, many Fox 4 viewers said they haven't been able to receive their unemployment benefits.  

Some haven't received an unemployment check in more than two months, making it difficult to travel to and from job interviews. 

When Fox 4 recently confronted Governor Rick Scott about the site while he was visiting LaBelle, he blamed the problems on an "old computer system" - even though his administraition has spent millions on the new website. 

He also said the man in charge of the agency, Jesse Panuccio, was "doing a great job" and pointed out that many claims have been processed properly.

Last night, Fox 4 reached out to former governor and 2014 democratic gubernatorial candidate, Charlie Crist, about his take on the site and how Governor Scott is handling the issue.

Crist said he would call on Florida's Attorney General to investigate the website.

"I would ask the Attorney General to look into this, get to the bottom of it and find out what's happening... find out why we paid $63 million for a website that doesn't work," Crist said.  

"If I were governor, we would be on it like nobody's business because they deserve better service."

"Florida deserves better." 

Governor Scott's press office contacted Fox 4 Thursday morning upset Wednesday story didn't include a statement from the governor, despite Fox 4's multiple interviews and questions to the governor in the past two months about the issue. 

When given the option to interview or provide a statement today, Governor Scott's office referred to the following statement from Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director, Jesse Panuccio:

"I understand that this system’s delays have caused a serious hardship for some claimants and my top priority is making sure that we can serve Floridians in their time of need. Although this modernization project was started under the previous administration, we are committed to making it successful and finding solutions to effectively serve every claimant.  To that end, we have recovered $1.5 million in financial restitution and imposed a corrective action plan under which Deloitte must deliver a fully functioning system to us by next week."

DEO officials also indicated today they have disabled commenting and posting on the agency's Facebook page-- an outlet where many claimants have voiced frustration over not being able to reach anyone at the call center for help.

Officials said they made this decision because some users were posting personal information on the page. 

The Scott administration has yet to answer Fox 4's questions about how many people statewide have run into problems with the site - keeping them from getting their unemployment benefits.

In a daily memo released from DEO, officials today said on Wednesday, Dec. 11, the call center received 99,673 calls from 23,997 different phone numbers.

Of those calls, 6,620 -- or about seven percent-- resulted in live customer interactions.  

Many Fox 4 viewers have voiced frustration over busy lines and automated messages when they call into the call center.