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The Boston Globe

Business

Fla. unemployment website designed by Deloitte also draws complaints

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida unemployment compensation system’s new, $63 million website has left a trail of frustrated users, filling Facebook and Twitter with tales of online malfunctions and help lines that don’t. The system was developed by Deloitte, the same firm responsible for the updated Massachusetts benefits system that also has been the subject of complaints.

“I’m still stumped,’’ Cathy Boyce, an unemployed architect, said on Thursday of the Florida system. She spent two days trying to submit her weekly claim for a $275 payment.

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“I completed my form. It responded that it was ‘pending,’ then the screen sent me to ‘workforce registration.’ But it wouldn’t accept my PIN number,’’ Boyce said.

Boyce then picked up the phone. “I’ve been calling their help number since 7:30 a.m. It’s been busy,’’ she said. ‘‘I can’t figure it out.’’

Boyce isn’t alone.

“I’ve never seen a system with so many breakdowns,’’ said Jerry Grenough of Jupiter, an auditor attempting to file his own unemployment claim.

Florida’s CONNECT system, unveiled Monday, was developed by Deloitte Consulting, which has had problems in recent years with technology contracts in California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, state officials unveiled a $46 million unemployment benefits system created by Deloitte that was two years behind schedule, $6 million over budget, and plagued with a host of glitches that have caused problems for thousands seeking benefits. In many cases, the problems echo Florida’s, as claimants wait on hold for hours or are disconnected when they call the state office for help.

Concerned about the ongoing barrage of complaints, the Massachusetts Senate’s Committee on Post Audit and Oversight has scheduled an Oct. 28 hearing on problems with the rollout.

A legislative committee also moved this week to create a special commission to investigate how state information technology contracts are awarded and managed.

New York-based Deloitte LLP is one of the nation’s largest management and information-technology consulting firms. It’s among a handful of corporate giants providing information technology services to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Internal Revenue Service, as part of the Oct. 1 rollout of health exchanges.

Deloitte is represented in Tallahassee by high-powered lobbyist Brian Ballard, who also lobbies for US Sugar and several Palm Beach County cities.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said the CONNECT system is ‘‘operational’’ and successfully received claims from more than 50,000 Floridians in its first two days.

“Nonetheless, and as expected, some users have encountered delays and problems accessing the system,’’ said the spokeswoman, Jessica Sims. ‘‘Some of those issues are technical and some are an inevitable result of user acclimation to a new online interface.’’

She said the most common problems encountered involve trouble entering PIN numbers or data for the appropriate week payment is sought.

Megan Woolhouse of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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