By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday shook up oversight of the state’s unemployment-compensation system, which has struggled with a massive surge in applications because of economic fallout from the novel coronavirus.
DeSantis put Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter in charge of the troubled CONNECT online unemployment system, taking over from Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson.
“His mission is very simple, get assistance out and as quickly as you can,” DeSantis said of Satter.
DeSantis added that he hopes Satter will “rattle the cage,” as the unemployment system continues to draw complaints as record numbers of claims have poured in during the past month. DeSantis said he has been unable to get updated information he wants.
“I’d like to be able to come out and say X number of checks went out yesterday. X number of checks are going to go out by 5 o’clock, or whatever you have,” DeSantis said. “I don’t think that the response has been sufficient, in that regard.”
Last Thursday, DeSantis said 225,755 initial claims had been filed since the previous Sunday, putting the state on pace to top the record 228,484 claims filed during the week ending March 28. Updated numbers were not available Wednesday.
Neither Satter nor Lawson attended Wednesday’s media briefing with DeSantis.
Lawson remains as head of the Department of Economic Opportunity, just in a role that is “non-COVID-related,” DeSantis said.
Lawson, who was appointed by DeSantis to head the department in December 2018, led agencies under former Gov. Rick Scott, moving from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to Visit Florida. He headed the tourism-marketing agency as its spending was under fire from House leaders.
Both Satter and Lawson earn $142,000 a year in their jobs.
While DeSantis said he was “happy” in progress made to improve the online unemployment-application system, he remains “disappointed” in the website’s performance. Applicants have had difficulty filing claims, complaining about issues such as the system crashing.
The CONNECT system, which cost $77 million to get online in 2013, has been a subject of several critical reviews by the Florida auditor general, with the latest in 2019.
DeSantis said Satter and his staff at the Department of Management Services have been involved in overseeing upgrades to the CONNECT system. Satter will remain as Department of Management Services secretary while heading the unemployment system.
“I think he’s a logical person to be able to do it, given that he’s been so involved in the technical components so far,” DeSantis said.
Responding to the change, state Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, tweeted, “I hope this change will bring immediate relief to my constituents and all Floridians suffering with Florida’s broken unemployment system.”
Satter has been instrumental in getting more than 100 computer servers to increase the capacity of the system. Problems with the system have spurred the state to begin offering paper applications and to bring in more than 1,000 people to handle calls from people filing claims.
Satter was managing director of U.S. operations for the commercial real-estate firm Avison Young from 2013 to 2018 before DeSantis appointed him to run the Department of Management Services, which oversees a wide range of issues including information technology.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush twice named Satter to the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, where he was board chair for four years.
The State used to develop it’s own software prior to Jeb Bush’s privatization money laundry having became the order of the day. The development was done at DMS. Yes the State is still able to hire sharp software developers but then there are no laundered political campaign contributions as with buying from private companies. Thanks to JEB.
It’s the RINO version of the lefts Planned Parenthood, NPR, The Kennedy Center, and of course all unions.
Good luck getting that money out Governor DeSantis.
@Snidely, you are right on.
I think it’s something like 80% of state software development is now outsourced. That’s how the state gets around the law that requires it can only hire US citizens or permanent residents. Outsource the job to, say, Accenture or DXC (formerly, HP Enterprise), and those companies are then free to hire all the (cheaper) foreign guest workers they want.
It is not the leadership that is the problem. It is the people behind the purchase of the $77 million dollar system that never worked from day one. Do a little investigation into the people that left when Lawson cleaned house. This was a disaster.
Reminds me of the Leon County election around 1985-86. (Old-timers, chime in if you can corroborate.) Republican Jan Pietryck (sp?) had been elected as Supervisor of Elections, got rid of all the Dems that knew how to fix the voting booths and hired some cronies, who didn’t have the mechanical expertise needed.
Lo and behold, come Election Day, it was a total disaster!
A system “Designed to Fail”
so politicians can lie and tell
the Floridian sheep “All is well”
when everything is really going to HELL….
This is a bad system I have still received nothing
The Number of people receiving checks is good information. However, the amount of people unable to login to Florida jobs.or and to even apply for reemployment is a whole Nother situation. People have been trying for weeks to login, They are unable to. That means that they have not been able to receive a claimant number to even file for unemployment. Most people cannot get past the first page which is your name email address and the password. If you can even get that far you’re probably unable to login to connect and submit for that.’s benefits.
I have been trying to login and get past the first page for over a week. Morning noon and night, all time is it a day, every hour of the day. No success, so therefore I have been unable to apply for a employment even though I was furloughed on April 10, 2020.