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Florida governor was warned about unemployment system issues in 2018

A 2018 memo from current head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ transition team called the state’s unemployment system a “potential threat.”The memo was sent by Ken Lawson, the current head of the DEO, in December 2018 to DeSantis’ transition team as he took over from former Florida Gov. Rick Scott.The governor has said audits detailing problems with the state’s unemployment system never got to his desk. Lawson, who at the time was running Visit Florida, laid out an action plan for the DEO and listed some of potential threats the DEO faces. The first thing on the list of the threats was the state’s unemployment system. “The technological and administrative capabilities of the reemployment assistance program may struggle in the event claims volume increases in the future,” Lawson wrote. That warning to DeSantis comes on top of years of audits WESH 2 News has reported on showing dozens of problems with DEO’s CONNECT website, which, in March and April blocked hundreds of thousands of people from applying for benefits. The governor has admitted it was a broken system.“It was not looking good. It was a very, very problematic system. So we’ve worked really hard at it,” DeSantis said when addressing the unemployment woes during a news conference. More than a year passed after the audits and Lawson’s 2018 warning, but when the pandemic hit, the state says CONNECT could only handle 1,000 users at a time. Officials said the website’s capacity is now up to 80,000 simultaneous users.

ORLANDO, Fla. —

A 2018 memo from current head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ transition team called the state’s unemployment system a “potential threat.”

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The memo was sent by Ken Lawson, the current head of the DEO, in December 2018 to DeSantis’ transition team as he took over from former Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

The governor has said audits detailing problems with the state’s unemployment system never got to his desk.

Lawson, who at the time was running Visit Florida, laid out an action plan for the DEO and listed some of potential threats the DEO faces. The first thing on the list of the threats was the state’s unemployment system.

“The technological and administrative capabilities of the reemployment assistance program may struggle in the event claims volume increases in the future,” Lawson wrote.

That warning to DeSantis comes on top of years of audits WESH 2 News has reported on showing dozens of problems with DEO’s CONNECT website, which, in March and April blocked hundreds of thousands of people from applying for benefits.

The governor has admitted it was a broken system.

“It was not looking good. It was a very, very problematic system. So we’ve worked really hard at it,” DeSantis said when addressing the unemployment woes during a news conference.

More than a year passed after the audits and Lawson’s 2018 warning, but when the pandemic hit, the state says CONNECT could only handle 1,000 users at a time.

Officials said the website’s capacity is now up to 80,000 simultaneous users.

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