New Leadership at Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 5:26 PM EDT
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(WCJB) - The agency responsible for unemployment payments has a new leader this week and he will face big challenges in the coming months.

The unemployment claims keep coming.

More than 95,000 so far in September as of Monday.

The once $4 billion trust fund for making payments has burned through three-fourths of its cash.

Now the agency is in new hands, with Former State Representative Dane Eagle taking the reigns at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“The CONNET system, the reemployment system did not meet the demand of the people. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, however, we need to fix that moving forward. No question about it. That’s what I am here to do. I’m going to surround myself with great people. There are good staff people working on that already,” said Eagle.

More than 2.1 million eligible claims have already been processed, but more than 152,000 remain unpaid.

“That’s our number one priority right now. Is figuring out how do we get them paid, get them moved forward, and move on. That is our number one priority. Getting that backlog done,” said Eagle.

The new director is just three days on the job.

He told us he’s still getting up to speed on replenishing the trust fund.

It’s usually done by assessing payments against companies that had layoffs, but Florida TaxWatch is recommending against that method.

“We don’t want to see the businesses that were most hurt by the pandemic and are going to have the toughest time recovering, having to pay a higher tax,” said Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch Vice President.

As a former state legislator, the new director has already surveyed all of his colleagues, asking them what they were hearing from constituents.

Their response: Fix the system. Get people paid, and from some, increase benefits.

The agency is still being sued by many unemployed who couldn’t collect.

Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.

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