State unemployment system plagued with problems
Sep. 03, 2014
BOSTON (AP) — The state's $46 million Web-based system to track unemployment benefits was plagued with problems for months after it launch, frustrating state employees and imperiling residents seeking benefits, according to a newspaper report.
The turmoil and frustration was captured in hundreds of agency employee emails obtained by The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/1sZolmf ) under a freedom of information request.
Thousands of people and businesses struggled with late benefits, missed hearings, and botched mailings.
One person who couldn't get benefits paid faced eviction. Another, with a brain tumor, couldn't pay for health insurance.
Many other unemployed workers received letters erroneously telling them they owed the state for overpayments, including one person who was told they owed $45,000. One email from a department official said the system had paid out $800,000 in benefits that it shouldn't have.
Some emails from agency employees expressed frustration with the company that designed and built the system, Deloitte Consulting, saying the company provided little support.
The agency was initially strained by the "relentless nature" of the problems, and reached out to those affected, said Rachel Kaprielian, state Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development.
"We made sure people were given an explanation," said Kaprielian, who did not join the agency until months after the system's rollout in July 2013. "Things went wrong through no fault of their own."
Deloitte defended its performance.
The system is now working well, having streamlined the claims process, improved the timeliness of payments and appeals, and strengthened the state's ability to detect fraud, the company said in a statement.
"Like any project of this magnitude and complexity, there were challenges to overcome, but we worked through them together," Jonathan Gandal, a Deloitte spokesman, said in the statement.
The system is stable now, Kaprielian said.
Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com