Legislation to fix Florida's broken unemployment portal heads to Senate for final approval

'This bill fixes a broken system,' Rep. Chip LaMarca says
Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 17:45:23-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Legislation to fix Florida's beleaguered CONNECT unemployment system appears to be on its way.

The Florida House unanimously approved a bill Wednesday afternoon overhauling the state's broken unemployment portal and more.

CONNECT failed thousands during the state's economic shutdown. Users struggled with crashes, long wait times and other issues.

HB 1463 makes several key improvements:

  • Reorganizes the Department of Economic Opportunity to improve workflow and efficiency
  • Increases transparency, establishing the Office of Economic Accountability & Transparency within the department
  • Upgrades CONNECT to a cloud-based system to better shield against technical problems related to a user surge

While the entire chamber supported the bill, some wished it included a boost to unemployment benefits.

State Rep. Chip LaMarca
State Rep. Chip LaMarca praised the bill, saying it will fix a broken system.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, proposed an amendment Tuesday that would have increased weekly unemployment pay by $100 to a maximum of $375.

"It’s really hard to have a second chance when you only get $275 a week and are trying to figure out where are you going to feed your kids," she said.

The Republican majority rejected the measure saying HB 1463 was the wrong avenue for such a change. Sponsor Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, reiterated that point before Wednesday's approval.

State Rep. Omari Hardy
State Rep. Omari Hardy said more could have been done to help residents in need.

"The amount and duration of benefits is not what this very good infrastructure bill is about," LaMarca said. "This bill fixes a broken system."

The next stop is the Senate where lawmakers already have a similar measure waiting. It will likely get a final vote in the coming days.

The upper chamber is also considering its own plan to boost unemployment benefits in a separate measure. Success looks grim, however. House leadership and the governor are opposed to it.