Florida’s got a lot to teach Washington when it comes to running a new Web site for government services.
If you’re showcasing a glitch-prone Web site full of frustrating dead ends and insufficient customer support, you can own up to the problems and promise to fix them.
That’s what’s happening with the national Obamacare Web site, healthcare.gov.
Or you can pretend the problems don’t exist on your glitch-prone Web site full of frustrating dead ends and insufficient customer support, and claim that your dysfunctional service is a success.
That’s what’s happening with Florida’s new $63 million unemployment claims Web site, Connect.
Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity launched Connect on the same week that healthcare.gov launched.
And like healthcare.gov, Connect been a mess.
But you probably don’t know that many of Florida’s unemployed are running into a brick wall when it comes to getting their weekly benefits through the new state Web site, in part, because the state’s unemployment office has told all its workers to pretend that things are working better than they really are.
“The system should become more stable as we daily progress as changes/fixes are being moved into production on a regular basis,” instructed a Department of Economic Opportunity memo leaked to the The Tampa Bay Times four days after the Web site was allegedly running smoothly. “It is important that we do not convey the wrong message to the public, so please do not advise claimants that the system is down unless official word from management is received.”
See how easy that is? The system is only down if management admits it.
I needed to explain this to Les Jacobson, a 62-year-old Boynton Beach man who has been unemployed since he lost his managerial job in July.
“I get the impression that nobody wants to hire somebody who is 62, unless you want to work for teenage wages,” Jacobson said.
So he’s been dutifully seeking another managerial or sales job while living off his Social Security and $275-a-week in unemployment benefits.
That is, until the state launched its new Web site this month. The launch began with a weeklong shutdown of the old computer system followed by instructions to all the state’s estimated 235,000 unemployed workers to reapply online for their benefits on the new Connect Web site.
“I’ve been trying to process my claim for a week without any luck,” Jacobson said. “Not only can I not get it done online, but you can’t get a person to the phone to speak to. I call the number every half hour from 7:30 in the morning until 7 at night and I get the same message that they can’t talk to me because they’re overwhelmed with calls.”
The Department of Economic Opportunity’s Facebook page is full of other Floridians who are venting their own frustrations in failing to negotiate the state’s new Web site, and threatening to file federal complaints about the glitches in the state system.
Jacobson finds this ironic.
“I see all this publicity on the TV about Obamacare’s Web site not working for something that that’s six months away,” he said. “And here we have a system where people can’t get money they need right now to feed their families.”
But is that really a problem if the people in charge don’t admit it is?
By Florida standards, admitting that should be avoided because it sends the wrong message.