Senate holds $92 million to upgrade unemployment site
As state budget negotiations enter the next stage, the Senate has been adamant not to spend millions to continue modernizing Florida’s unemployment system.
The House’s original budget proposal included $150 million to continue improving the “consumer-centric workforce system,” a new portal to replace the state’s ailing CONNECT portal. Although House negotiators dropped their request at $91.8 million in their latest offer, senators still said “no.”
Lawmakers last year passed legislation to overhaul the state unemployment systema government priority. Ron DeSantis and Speaker of the House Chris Sprows. The legislation stems from an investigation, ordered in 2020 by DeSantis, into the failure of the CONNECT system after it caved under the weight of Florida’s mounting unemployment claims during the pandemic.
House economic development negotiators, led by Pace Republican Rep. Jayer Williamson, say the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) needs additional funding to improve the portal. Without the additional funds, the WD would have to use the remaining expenditures from last year to meet improvement needs.
As part of the 2021 Act, the Re-employment Assistance Modernization Strategic Planning Office is leading the modernization project, which is ongoing. Every three years, the office will submit an annual report to the Governor, Senate, and House, which will include a three-year overview of recommended modernization projects.
Last year, lawmakers also disagree on how to spend $36 million on the unemployment system. The House wanted these funds for the modernization project while the Senate wanted the funds to clear the backlog of cases.
the House finally won. However, it was only a one-year contract.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed critical issues with CONNECT. A flood of candidates at the height of the pandemic crushed the portal, leading DeSantis to pillory the system and the contract that created it.
In accordance with the 2021 law, the Office of Economic Accountability and Transparency within the DEO is responsible for managing data collection and project accountability.
This year’s workforce package also aimed to make it easier for communities to apply for programs aimed at reversing their decline through grants for community development and project planning called the Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program.
Communities can now apply for multiple grants and more of the program’s funding will be reserved for declared emergencies. But the DEO can now deny grants to communities that the agency has determined have used the grant inappropriately in the past.
But while the House is hoping for an additional $91.8 million or more for the bill, lawmakers must balance Sprows’ priorities with those of the Senate president. wilton simpsonWHO wants 120 million dollars in development projects to complete $20 million a year for the new Moffitt Cancer Center site in Pasco County.
Lawmakers have until Tuesday to finalize the budget in order to pass it by the scheduled end of the session.