Modernizing Unemployment Insurance Systems

Apr 20, 2020

As the Coronavirus spread has led to stay-at-home orders across the country, millions of Americans have found themselves unemployed. More than 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment since states started instituting shutdowns in March, an unprecedented number in such a short period of time. However, even that staggering number is still an undercount of those who have lost their jobs, as states struggle to process unemployment claims. As millions try to file for unemployment, they are met with glitchy websites, busy phone lines, and massive delays. When it comes to meeting this surge in demand, State unemployment agencies are massively hampered by their out-of-date technology.

States have found themselves having to contend with their outdated mainframe system for processing claims. Many states still rely on mainframes built in the 1970s and coded in COBOL, a language that is not even taught in most computer science programs anymore. New Jersey made news when its governor went on TV to ask for volunteers who could code in COBOL to help the State keep its mainframe operational under the new strain. In Kansas, pressure on the legacy mainframe has led to the website for unemployment claims applications being inaccessible for days at a time. In New York, applicants were asked to fax information to complete their claims or use Netscape, a web browser that functionally no longer exists. Connecticut’s backlog of claims could take up to five weeks to process, held up by a legacy systems they cannot scale. In all cases, taxpayers found themselves having to jump through frustrating hoops and facing long delays because states didn’t have the technology or expertise to deal with the sharp increase in claims.

Most of these problems could have been avoided with a modern, well-implemented unemployment insurance system. Old systems are much harder and more expensive to scale-up with increased demand. Newer systems are more flexible and can scale dynamically. In Massachusetts, which implemented a new cloud-based solution in 2017, the system has mostly kept up with demand with smooth applications and timely approvals. Plus, they don’t rely on a shrinking pool of COBOL programmers to keep it running. Updated systems are also much easier to implement advanced analytics in, something that can help unemployment agencies cut down on manual work during peak times and save states money in the long run. Modernizing UI systems and moving away from legacy mainframe systems can have massive benefits for both the agency and the applicants, allowing states to be prepared for any future spikes like the one states are experiencing now.

To learn how ASR Analytics can help your organization modernize its outdated UI system, contact us here.