TAMPA BAY, Florida -- The state's new website designed to help unemployed Floridians continues to fail many of those in need this holiday season.
And the 10 News Investigators have learned many of the problems are because the seven-week-old website - which cost taxpayers more than $60 million - isn't compatible with some of the newest web browsers.
10 News viewers have been inundating the station's tipline with reports of their struggles in getting unemployment benefis. The state switched over to its new "CONNECT" website on October 15.
But even after fixing some of the problems that plagued the website's first month, Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is still struggling to help all of the needy Floridians who qualify for benefits.
The DEO has expanded its call center hours but still has only been able to make "human interactions" with 5%-6% of its roughly 117,000 calls each day.
Compounding the problems are CONNECT's requirements that benefit applicants use an Apple Safari web browser, Firefox 16 or 17, or Internet Explorer 8 or 9.
However, the newest version of Firefox is 25 and the newest version of Internet Explorer is 11.
"(It is as) if they went in and blew the dust off of Windows 95 and brought it out," said frustrated benefit-seeker Charmayne Foreman.
But the DEO maintains the "majority" of benefit-seekers are now getting helped.
A press release indicated a total of 24,067 claims were filed using CONNECT on Thursday and approximately $7.8 million was paid to claimants. And since the launch on October 15, more than 783,000 total claims have reportedly been filed using CONNECT, accounting for more than $224 million paid to claimants.
However, 10 News questions into how the DEO arrived at their conclusion that a "majority" of claims were satisfied went unanswered.
And while the department has averaged $32 million per week in benefits since CONNECT was launched, the total represents just a fraction of the $83 million per week the agency was paying out prior to the Oct. 15 launch of the troubled website.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates more than 600,000 Floridians are unemployed this holiday season.
Some 10 News viewers have reported having success with the website when using the older browsers on computers available at local re-employment centers.
Some viewers also say that they have been more successful on the phone by calling during the early morning hours between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Right now, Senator Bill Nelson is seeking a federal investigation into all of the website's problems, and we'll be continuing our watchdog work too.
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