FLORIDA -- The Department of Economic Opportunity is fighting a lawsuit over Florida's unemployment system after a pair of Tallahassee attorneys, Marie Mattox and Gautier Kitchen, sought a Florida judge to force the DEO to pay all applicants on the grounds of system software flaws and red tape -- despite the DEO's claims that the system has vastly improved.
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The state asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit over unemployment compensation but the judge refused to do that last Friday. Which paved the way for a virtual hearing to be held today.
During the hearing, an Orlando man told the judge he's been waiting so long for unemployment that he had to trade his baby's diapers for food.
The DEO's Chief Financial Officer Damon Steffens told the judge the system was only designed to handle 5,000 people at the same time. But since they've improved the system, it can now handle 80,000.
Attorney Mattox pointed out that there's thousands of people who have been wrongly deemed ineligible.
Despite being unable to answer questions about the thousands of ineligible people, CFO Steffens told the judge that the DEO has spent $10 million improving the connect system since the pandemic outbreak. He also said that 95 percent of eligible applicants have been paid.
The unemployment hearing was only scheduled for three hours but ended up going for more than eight hours.
The judge finally had to stop the hearing and says it will resume at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
The judge is expected to make a decision on that day.