PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pennsylvania’s “woefully outdated” computer system used to handle unemployment claims will not get previously promised upgrades in October.
For the past few months, The Department of Labor and Industry’s Secretary Jerry Oleksiak has said the new system would go live in October. With just a few days to go, the state announced it will now pause the launch of the new system.
This comes at the recommendation of state legislators, stakeholders and the U.S. Department of Labor, according to the Department of Labor and Industry.
The release states: “Pennsylvania will avoid potentially disrupting people relying on unemployment compensation by pausing the launch of the new system that will change how to file for claim and benefits.”
Small business owner Ryan Smith wants his money. They say they owe him $13,000.
He cleans ductwork for a living, but when he could no longer safely enter clients’ homes, he applied for pandemic unemployment assistance, or PUA.
“What really gets me is I have a letter, I have it right here,” he says.
It’s a letter saying he checks the boxes, but the outdated system still keeps telling him it’s processing.
“Because with the massive amount of individuals they’re servicing right now — they don’t want to pile on a new kind of system and have anything fall through the cracks,” says state Senator Camera Bartolotta.
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Bartolotta, who chairs the Labor and Industry Committee says now isn’t the time to unveil a new system. She says they’re dealing with so much fraud.
“Let’s get through this massive issue with the pandemic and getting people unemployment comp now. And then we’ll modernize the system when it’s not on fire,” Bartolotta says.
But state Rep. Austin Davis says his constituents deserve answers, answers even he can’t get.
“On an average it takes my staff about three to four weeks just to get a response from the department,” he says.
He set his sights on this October launch, only to find out it’s off.
“I understand an upgrade in the middle of this may not be the most ideal situation, but the reality is we have a responsibility to deliver these benefits to people,” he says.
The state is still using 50-year-old technology to process claims.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller interviewed Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in August, who described the system as “woefully outdated” and “held together with bubble gum and rubber bands.” He called for changes to the system back in 2017.
“For the many Pennsylvanians out of work because of COVID-19, the unemployment compensation system is providing a lifeline and crucial benefits that claimants need for food and housing during this unprecedented time,” said Secretary Oleksiak.
L&I has paid out more than $28 billion in unemployment claims since March 15.