TAMPA - Constant glitches with Florida's $63 million dollar jobless benefits website has artificially lowered the state's unemployment estimates.
That's because thousands of people trying to file claims have been kicked off the site, leading to surprising drops in the number of benefit claims.
For the last several days, Cindy Perdee of Tampa has been desperately trying to make sure she gets an unemployment check to cover her bills while she continues searching for work. The problem: the state's failing website that handles unemployment benefits.
"The whole process has been frustrating," Perdee said. "Unemployment is devastating."
Perdee said she has tried filling out the necessary forms online at "Connect," the website handling benefits, only to see the site crash.
"It locks you out, or it says error, unable to process at this time," said Perdee, who came to the Workforce Alliance of Tampa Bay for help.
"It's embarrassing. I feel like I have class. It's been very tough," Perdee said.
Just as Governor Rick Scott was touting the record drop in unemployment numbers in Florida, it was becoming all too clear that the statistics were misleading.
The 18 percent drop in jobless claims from October to December was the sharpest decline in 15 years. Scott neglected to mention that thousands of people weren't counted because of the "Connect" website's failure to register unemployment claims.
When asked about the website problems, the governor said "we're going to continue to hold them accountable." Scott may have been referring to Deloitte, the company that rolled out the $63 million website that's been plagued with issues since it went online in October.
A $3 million payment to Deloitte has been withheld while the site's problems are fixed.
That's little consolation to Deric Johnson, a Tampa resident who's family of six has barely been getting by while he's been out of work for two months.
"It's a waiting process," Johnson said. "Hopefully it'll come together."
Johnson said he's hoping the new year will bring him better fortune in the job market.
"I've got four kids, you know? You know I'm never going to give up."