Struggles continues with new unemployment computer

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  • | 12:00 p.m. November 28, 2013
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The majority of technical "glitches" that first confronted users of the state's overhauled unemployment computer system appear to have been smoothed out.

A spokeswoman for the agency said this week that the system is working for "a vast majority of claimants."

However, the Department of Economic Opportunity's $62.8 million system called "Connect" continues to struggle for some users. 

Claims by jobless people that are flagged for investigation or are under appeal continue to be a major hurdle to correct.

"We're working tirelessly to make sure that those issues are resolved," said department spokeswoman Monica Russell. "And we want to make sure that all claimants, and those that are entitled to receive benefits, will receive them."

The new state system went online shortly after the federal health care website had its own not-so-spectacular introduction in October.

The Department of Economic Opportunity's goal is to complete the remaining conversion issues by Dec. 20.

The investigation and appeals issues, known as "back-end processes," have been the biggest bugs for the new system.

The problem was highlighted when department Director Jesse Panuccio and Jessica Blume, an official with Minneapolis-based Deloitte Consulting, appeared before the state Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee to discuss the new system Nov. 4.

The changeover, which is in part covered with federal tax dollars, includes about $28.2 million for Deloitte Consulting to set up the website.

In exchange for $1.5 million in contractual relief and credits, Deloitte was given an extension from Nov. 15 to Dec. 20 to improve the appeals issues, according to Department of Economic Opportunity records.

Deloitte was penalized $4.5 million last year due to project delays.

Otherwise, the system is working at "pre-Connect levels" in terms of payments to claimants, she said.

Since the Oct. 15 launch, more than 600,000 claims have been filed, with more than $171 million paid out.

Department officials have said the new system is designed to be more user-friendly, can be used 24 hours a day and is expected to be easier for the department to maintain. 

The call centers will be closed on Thanksgiving.

"We'll be open Friday and Saturday and Sunday and we will continue to do so until the majority of issues have been resolved," Russell said.



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