Senator Bill Nelson credits Fox 4 in push for unemployment website investigation

CREATED Feb. 21, 2014

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FLORIDA-- US Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) cited a Fox 4 report in a letter he wrote today asking the US Department of Labor again to investigate new Florida's unemployment website.

Technical problems with the website, CONNECT, have delayed payments to thousands of laid-off Floridians.  

But state officials claim the issues are improving.

Thursday, the Department of Economic Opportunity released a memo announcing it would be cutting hours of operation at the unemployment call center, stating call volume has decreased.  

DEO also said staff members are processing claims at record levels and a backlog of claims needing to be paid no longer exists.

But many Fox 4 viewers are still reaching out to us for help because they still can't get the unemployment benefits they've been waiting weeks-- even up to four months-- to receive.

Senator Nelson, who successfully pushed for federal labor officials to get involved, wrote a third request to the Department of Labor today stating in part:

"I am writing today to request that your office investigate for possible waste, fraud or abuse stemming from the launch of a system that reportedly would result in unemployment insurance claims not being processed in a manner consistent with provisions in federal law requiring prompt payment to eligible individuals."

His letter continued.

"Yesterday, when asked for a progress update, DoL staff said the state reported that the 11,000-person backlog had been eliminated.  Meantime the FOX television affiliate serving the Fort Myers area was reporting that viewers there were still reaching out for help."

The state launched a new, $63-million dollar unemployment claims website in October.  

Many viewers complained of technical glitches that delayed their checks for weeks and, sometimes, months.

They've also reported long waits to reach someone for help in the call center. 

Fox 4 has consistently taken Floridians' concerns about the problems to top state officials Tallahassee.

We've even asked Governor Rick Scott about the problems as he visited Southwest Florida weeks ago.

He dodged our questions and instead would only speak to how many people were geting their benefits on time.

The issue has turned into a political football in the governor's race with Democrat Charlie Crist hammering Scott for not doing more to fix the site and get people their checks.

Fox 4 will continue to follow this story until our viewers get the money and answers they've been waiting on.