L&I Launches Modernized UC Delivery System Amid Continuing Criticism
Pennsylvania replaced its 40-year-old unemployment benefit system on Tuesday after a multi-year process to implement a more intuitive filing method. The “obsolete mainframe,” which led to a large backlog of claims throughout the pandemic that persists today, has been removed for a “faster and easier to use” system, according to the Ministry of Labor and Employment. ‘Pennsylvania Industry.
L&I Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier said the new system had been put into operation for a smooth launch at 3:08 a.m. this morning and by 1 p.m. more than 62,000 users had successfully applied for benefits. . “To put that in context, the same number of people who accessed the new system in the past 12 hours exceeds the same number of people who would have access to the mainframe in an entire week before the pandemic,” Berrier said. .
The unemployment system has come under intense scrutiny statewide, especially in the past year as it was overwhelmed by a record number of jobless claims.
Berrier said it was a “huge improvement” over the old system, but the transition had its problems. She said that some users are encountering an error while trying to create a Keystone ID and are working to resolve it. Not only that, but a phone outage interrupted service this morning – unrelated to the new system, but customer service lines were restored soon after.
The overhaul follows growing criticism that the department has continued to leave claimants dry. The pandemic has exacerbated problems in almost every industry, but for those in need of benefits, the overburdened system has gone from frustration to complete failure. Now, with hundreds of thousands of claimants still awaiting a decision, unemployment advocates say now is not the time to make the transition.
“The timing is terrible given the huge backlog they have,” said John Dodds, director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, at City & State PA. “If they don’t have the capacity to do the job, they have to take the money out and not expect people to bear the brunt of their inability to handle the workload.”
Under the new system, all eligible claimants for unemployment benefit and pandemic unemployment will be able to apply on a weekly basis. The system was closed from May 30 to June 8 for new claimants, but L&I said most claimants would not see a delay in their benefits.
L&I has also recently recruited approximately 500 additional employees to provide customer service over the phone, allowing more experienced employees to deal with specific complaints issues. Berrier said the new system allows for quick upload of information from the claimant and employer side, and claimants can use a series of 25 workshops to familiarize themselves with the new system.
Whatever changes are put in place, Dodd said those who have been waiting for a response for months need immediate assistance.
“These are not social benefits. These are dollars that are taken from your paycheck every week and are intended to pay you when you are out of work. And [L&I is] don’t respond to this test, ”Dodd said. L&I said there are around 289,000 pending adjudication claims, but that figure likely includes many ineligible and fraudulent claimants. Overall, more than 94% of claims filed during the pandemic were paid or deemed ineligible, according to L&I.
Dodd urged the state to pay benefits to anyone whose decision has not been made within three weeks and to continue with the payments until their claim is resolved. He said it’s not ideal to go back and ask for money from those who end up being overpaid, but it’s better than “letting people starve for months” .
Although Berrier gave no timeline on when the backlog will be reduced, she said the new system’s “behind-the-scenes” features will allow them to process complaints and deal with potential fraud more quickly.