FLORIDA – The Department of Economic Opportunity is filing a lawsuit over the Florida unemployment system after a pair of Tallahassee attorneys, Marie Mattox and Gautier Kitchen, sought a Florida judge to force the DEO to pay all applicants for system software and bureaucracy errors – despite DEO’s claims that the system has improved enormously.
The state asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit over unemployment benefits, but the judge refused to do so last Friday. That paved the way for a virtual hearing to be held today.
At the hearing, a Orlando man told the judge that he was waiting for unemployment for so long that he had to exchange his baby’s diapers for food.
Damon Steffens, DEO’s Chief Financial Officer, told the judge that the system was designed only to treat 5,000 people at a time. But because they have improved the system, it can now handle 80,000.
Lawyer Mattox pointed out that there are thousands of people who have been wrongly considered ineligible.
Despite failing to answer questions about the thousands of ineligible people, CFO Steffens told the judge that since the pandemic outbreak, the DEO has spent $ 10 million improving the connection system. He also said 95 percent of eligible applicants were paid.
The unemployment hearing was scheduled for only three hours, but ultimately lasted more than eight hours.
The judge eventually had to stop the hearing and says it will resume at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
The judge must make a decision on that day.