TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s unemployment agency intends to cut hundreds of call center jobs in the next week, despite continued complaints about accessibility to customer service.
The Department of Economic Opportunity argues cutting those particular positions may improve customer service communications. But struggling unemployment applicants are skeptical.
“I disagree with their decision to cut these jobs,” Daniela Venda said. “We need more people, not less.”
Stuck in “pending purgatory” for more than two months, Venda is desperate for help with her unemployment claim.
She filed the same day she was furloughed from her marketing job in early May through the DEO’s mobile-friendly site. As far as she can tell, the agency never entered her into the CONNECT system and, without a provided PIN, she still does not have access.
Hours waiting on the phone with the DEO call center gets her nowhere.
“They can’t help and just say I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do,” Venda explained.
Despite countless similar anecdotes, the DEO confirms it is cutting back on call center staffing. A spokesperson told 8 On Your Side the agency is terminating contracts with two vendors, AECOM and United Data Technologies, for “not providing as high quality services.”
The contracts with both companies were signed in April to support the overwhelmed agency and were worth a combined $36 million.
However, State Representative Anna Eskamani is frustrated that the DEO’s official response differs from what soon-to-be laid-off workers were told.
Emails to some of those workers obtained by 8 On Your Side blame a lack of funding, not performance, for the layoffs. However, state financial records show Florida only paid one company, UDT, a fraction of what its contract was worth.
The DEO promises more than 3,000 other call center agents will still be working the phones. But as many as 800 people could be laid off come July 21, a concerning number for Eskamani.
“Of course, now we’re concerned about hundreds of new unemployed Floridians entering this broken system,” she said.
Because 8 On Your Side understands how difficult it’s been for some applicants to contact the DEO to rectify claim issues, we are here to help. By filling out this short survey, you’re helping us collect data on the scope of persistent unemployment issues. In exchange, we will submit your information to the DEO in an effort to escalate your claim.
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