PALM HARBOR, Fla. — A cyberattack is to blame for Employ Florida being taken offline, leading to confusion, questions and concern for thousands of Floridians trying to apply for unemployment and access unemployment benefits.
Thursday morning, the I-Team received an email from a Floridian saying his wife had tried, unsuccessfully, to apply for unemployment all week. She could not, he said, because the Employ Florida website is down. In order to register and received unemployment benefits, doing to Employ Florida's website to search and apply for jobs is a required step.
It wasn't until the I-Team contacted the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) that ABC Action News learned there was a cyberattack on the vendor that runs the Employ Florida site — Geographic Solutions, based in Palm Harbor.
DEO awarded the company a more than $15 million contract in 2020.
While it's website is currently, down, the company's Facebook page says it specializes in online software for unemployment insurance industries, working with government agencies in more than 30 states and U.S. territories.
Statement from Geographic Solutions:
"We recently identified anomalous activity on our network, and immediately took some systems offline to halt the activity. With the help of third-party specialists, we are conducting a full investigation to determine the cause and scope of the incident. That investigation is still ongoing, and we are taking steps to help prevent this from happening again. Our current focus is on taking care of our customers and working around the clock to restore all systems.
In Florida we provide the Employ Florida system which is the state’s labor exchange website (providing a platform for job search and talent acquisition). The system also manages the federal employment and training programs within the state. However, we do not provide the unemployment insurance system for the State of Florida."
The I-Team found nothing on DEO's website telling Floridians about the cyberattack. Instead, there was a tweet two days ago saying the agency, "...is aware of a statewide outage of the vendor-managed system, Employ Florida. This does not affect RA payments. @FLDEO remains committed to assisting Floridians while the state’s vendor works to restore their services."
Statement from DEO to the I-Team:
"DEO took quick action when we learned one of our vendors had been compromised by a cyberattack. As part of our proactive response, DEO temporarily severed the connection between CONNECT and Employ Florida, the latter being a system this contractor runs. There is no indication state systems were breached. Right now, no claimants have been impacted, and as the outage continues, DEO will ensure Floridians receive timely payments by waiving claimants’ work search requirements during the vendor’s outage. We will continue to provide updates on this issue."
While this addresses Floridians already receiving unemployment, the I-Team asked about people currently trying to apply for unemployment, since that registration process includes Employ Florida.
We are still awaiting an answer to that question and word of how much longer Employ Florida will be down.