In an editorial published on Tuesday October 19th, 2021, the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board called on Governor DeSantis and Florida’s Legislature to finally “get serious” about fixing the state’s messy and perhaps purposely dysfunctional, GOP-created unemployment system.
The editorial specifically references the recent mailing of overpayment notices, which have caused confusion, anxiety and consternation among many benefits recipients: ”The state Department of Economic Opportunity mailed thousands of notices recently to Floridians who filed for unemployment, stating they must repay in some cases thousands of dollars — or face being sent to debt collectors. The notices have caused angst because they almost never say why the recipient owes the state money or how the amount was calculated. Some notices have even been mailed after the deadline to appeal them.”
“The notices are one offshoot of an inherently flawed unemployment system that was wholly unprepared for the onslaught of job losses brought by COVID-19. In its haste to fulfill claims last year, the state automatically sent money out without verifying the exact dates the recipient was eligible. That required recipients to navigate the state’s confusing online unemployment website, known as CONNECT, and to “claim” those benefits after the fact. If the recipient failed — many were unaware of the requirement in the first place — they were likely sent an overpayment notice.”
“How the state can prosecute fraud without knowing how many innocents are caught in this bureaucratic maze is anybody’s guess. But as the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this month, the DOE is trying to claw back possibly billions of dollars in non-fraudulent unemployment claims distributed during the first 18 months of the pandemic.”
“The overpayment notices are but the latest feature of a benefits system stricken with chaos and disarray.”
“Jobless Floridians should be able to navigate the system easily, and depend on a reliable flow of assistance. And taxpayers should have the confidence that the state is managing the operation well. Neither is currently the case, and the Legislature should make a turnaround a priority in the coming session.”