Polk man still waiting for unemployment benefits - WFLA News Channel 8

Polk man still waiting for unemployment benefits

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POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

News that Florida's unemployment system has paid out more than $400,000 in potentially fraudulent claims to identity thieves doesn't sit well with John Loveless.

"It's just wrong," Loveless said.

The Winter Haven resident says he is still waiting for more than $3,000 in legitimate benefits after filing for unemployment in November. Loveless, a sheet metal worker, says he's had trouble with the state's new CONNECT unemployment website and system that launched in October.

But while Loveless and dozens of other unemployed Bay Area residents waited for their benefits, some fraudsters may have succeeded in getting money from the state by filing false claims using stolen identities.

News Channel 8 reported last week that since November, the state paid $420,000 in potentially fraudulent claims. Over the same period, Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity says it identified and stopped potentially fraudulent claims worth $62,000.

A DEO spokeswoman says the state's new CONNECT system is actually designed to reduce fraud through techniques not possible under the old system. She said efforts are also underway to make more improvements to the system.

"DEO is working with LexisNexis to further enhance the security capability of CONNECT through LexisNexis and we are continuing to develop monitoring within the system to authenticate individuals' identities to ensure that the benefits paid through the system are to the actual individuals," said DEO spokeswoman Jessica Sims.  

Since CONNECT launched in October, DEO has been dealing with delays, backlogs and technical issues relating to CONNECT for four months.

This week, the department announced "there are less than 5,000 individuals with at least one week on hold pending adjudication and the active caseload is being processed at record numbers."

Loveless, however, says he checks the website every day and has talked to call center representatives but can't seem to get his problem fixed. Originally, the state listed a company on his account that had not worked for, and his account continues display a "disqualified" categorization, despite the fact he received a "notice of approval" in January saying he was eligible for benefits, Loveless said.

Related Content: Fraudsters target unemployment benefits in Tampa Bay area

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