Warm Southern Breeze

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis: Former Governor Rick Scott Watched Over Unemployment System Revamp

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

In a recent interview published Tuesday, 04 August 2020, with Jim DeFede Investigative Reporter for WFOR-TV ch4, Miami, FL’s CBS affiliate, Governor Ron DeSantis made some startling comments, the most notable of which was about the state’s Unemployment Compensation system.

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, succeeded Rick Scott, also a Republican

While acknowledging the state’s Unemployment Compensation system was previously aged 40 or 50 years, and therefore, by some means, inefficient, it was revamped in the last 5, or 6 years during the administration of then-Governor Rick Scott, also a Republican.

While he didn’t explicitly blame the former Governor, he left little room for speculation that Rick Scott had a hand in frustrating a system for claimants and claims upon the state’s UC system.

An earlier news item published 28 May 2020 by ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV ch28 in Tampa, identified that Deloitte Consulting, the firm awarded a $77 million contract in 2013 for revising the website and system gateway, was found to be incompetent.

Rick Scott, former Republican Florida Governor

The news report stated that annual state audits initiated in 2015 found numerous problems and defects with the website which created a backlog of claims, and noted that the state had been already embroiled in a separate and unrelated lawsuit with Deloitte.

In fact, as early as 2013, the Florida State Department of Economic Opportunity began fining Deloitte Consulting $15,000 a day specifically because of problems with the state’s Unemployment Compensation website.

From the outset, Governor DeSantis has been critical of the work done by Deloitte on the state’s UC website, and stated that it was designed to fail.

Following the Great Recession, which destroyed many Florida jobs, then-Governor Rick Scott and Florida State legislators created a UC system that reduced benefits and imposed new restrictions upon potential claimants.

Ryan Barack, a Clearwater, FL-based labor attorney said, “The system was designed to not pay benefits to people.”

When asked why such a system would have been created, he said “It made it so that the economy was better than it actually was, which helped Rick Scott’s political fortunes.”

The state’s maximum weekly UC rate is $275, one of the nation’s lowest.

During a public hearing some years ago, Dan Raulerson, a former FL State Representative, Republican and member of the Auditing Committee, had strongly encourage state legislators to correct regularly-occurring problems with the state’s CONNECT system, though they ignored his concerns. When contacted about the ongoing problems with the site and system – if it was designed to fail – he said that “Well, put it this way: If someone designed it fail, they need to go to jail. It’s as simple as that.”

On the state’s UNEMPLOYMENT SYSTEM

DeSantis: From the end of the third week, third, fourth week of March through most of April, you know, we were in really dire straits with that system. So I do think we should get the results of the IG. And then, if there needs to be some type of suit or some type of accountability, we absolutely need to do it. I mean, my thing is like a lot of these unemployment systems throughout the country, you know, weren’t very good, but a lot of them were like 40, 50 years old. Ours wasn’t really old. I mean, ours was really five, six years ago. And it should have been done better for that price tag to produce better results.

DeFede: Do you believe that the system was in part put together the way it was to discourage people from being able to collect unemployment?

DeSantis: I think that was the animating philosophy. I mean having studied how it was internally constructed, I think the goal was for whoever designed, it was, ‘Let’s put as many kind of pointless roadblocks along the way, so people just say, oh, the hell with it, I’m not going to do that.’ And, you know, for me, let’s decide on what the benefit is and let’s get it out as efficiently as possible. You know, we shouldn’t necessarily do these roadblocks to do it. So we have cleared a lot of those. And I waived a lot of the letter requirements through executive order. But I think going forward, I want all our systems, including unemployment, to be user friendly. And it was not user friendly.

DeFede: Well, that system was designed and implemented during the Rick Scott administration. Do you think that was Rick Scott’s intention, was to discourage people from applying for benefits?

DeSantis: I’m not sure if it was his, but I think definitely in terms of how it was internally constructed, you know. It was definitely done in a way to lead to the least number of claims being paid out.

DeFede: Now, there was an audit that came out in 2019, I believe, that pointed out many of the flaws. Should you be held responsible for not having acted on that audit and corrected the system?

DeSantis: Well, so that was an audit that was given to the agency head. Nothing ever reached my desk. I was not asked to do anything. I wasn’t asked to seek more funding from the legislature. If I was, I probably would have done it. But I looked at that audit and, honestly, that that does not answer really the systemic flaws that was advanced with this saying. And so even if those things were done and they should have been done by the agency, we still would have had the same problems.

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