LAKE MARY, Fla. - A wedding photographer who was part of the group that filed a lawsuit against Florida demanding the state immediately pay people waiting on unemployment benefits said the fight is not over.
A judge in Tallahassee dismissed the lawsuit on Wednesday, saying the plaintiffs did not meet legal requirements for a relatively unusual type of order known as a “writ of mandamus”.
“It doesn't make sense,” said wedding photographer Michael Freas. “It really does not make any sense.”
Freas said he has been waiting 52 days for state unemployment benefits. He’s been out of work because the coronavirus pandemic has cancelled hundreds of weddings.
Freas said the state of Florida has not done a good job handling the unemployment crisis.
“It's like my grandfather used to say, proper planning prevents poor performance.”
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity statistics show since March 15th more than 1.1 million unique unemployment claims have been filed and about 481,000 claims have been paid.Governor Ron DeSantis has launched an Inspector General investigation into Florida’s unemployment system, called CONNECT.
The governor said he does not understand why $77 million was spent on a bad product.
“This is unprecedented. Any system was going to have some problems, but if we had anything other than three or four percent unemployment, this system was going to be a problem,” Governor DeSantis said.
“Even in a mild recession, this would have been a problem. So, that’s not a good use of taxpayer money.”
The governor said the investigation will include how the CONNECT system was paid for under former governor Rick Scott’s administration and contract details.
Freas criticized the governor’s call for an investigation.
“The accountability is -- in my opinion he's launching the investigation because he's trying to save face and using jalopy and clunker; c’mon Ron how many more buzz words?”
Well-known attorney John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan is now offering to join the fight.
In a video posted to social media he offered Governor DeSantis his team’s services for free to recover the $77 million spent on the CONNECT system.
In the video Morgan said, "Turn me and my team loose, my business trial team loose, and we will recover that money for the State of Florida."
Morgan said he believes this issue requires more than individual lawsuits or a class action.
“This is to me a lemon law type case. We paid $77 million and it didn't work at the time we needed it the most, and therefore it's never worked."
FOX 35 reached out to the governor’s office to get a response on Morgan’s offer but have not heard back yet. Meanwhile, Freas said he is not giving up on his fight.
“I'm going to figure out how to take this farther. I’m going to reach out to our counsel. It's not over and until people are paid.”
Lawmakers recently sent a letter to Governor DeSantis asking him to provide a timeline of when people can expect their state unemployment benefits but so far a timeline has not been released.