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Berrier

Labor & Industry’s antiquated Unemployment Compensation computer system has two months to live.

The state agency will launch its new system on June 8, acting secretary Jennifer Berrier announced at a virtual media briefing on Thursday afternoon.

“We have been working with an archaic mainframe that has been outdated for years,” she said of the four-decade-old relic. “It’s amazing that it was able to handle the capacity it has had to deal with during the pandemic.”

Berrier said the replacement system should be faster and more efficient, simplifying the filing process for claimants while easing the burdens of department employees – who, despite the addition of hundreds of representatives, have been under siege. They have been handling waves of claims and complaints from people who have lost jobs, had their hours reduced and/or been unable to contact L&I representatives.

Five programs will transition to the new system: Unemployment Compensation; Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation; Extended Benefits; Shared Work or Short-Time Compensation; and Trade Readjustment Allowances.

The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program will not be part of the switchover. It operates through a different system.

To accommodate the system startup, L&I will shut down its current system for two weeks. “During that time, we’ll be migrating data of claimants into the new UC system,” the secretary said.

Berrier could not provide a time frame or other specifics, saying details have to be worked out, but assured UC recipients they will not lose pay during that two-week shutdown. Claimants who file for biweekly benefits will experience a delay in one payment.

“We will inform claimants ahead of time,” the secretary said.

Berrier said Geographic Solutions Inc., of Palm Harbor, Fla., created the new system under a $30.2 million contract, plus ancillary costs.

She said her agency has been working on developing a new system “for years,” and that it actually was supposed to go live last spring. Then the coronavirus arrived, creating a record-number of UC claims in a short time, delaying that plan.

The transition to the GSI system, Berrier added, will happen at a fortuitous time.

“We are getting fewer new claims, and people are getting vaccines. The timing is right.”

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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