Labor Wants Feedback on Checklist for Modernizing State Unemployment Systems

max dallocco/

The federal agency seeks input on the mandatory guidance it released to help states prevent service disruptions as they update their technology. 

As national unemployment numbers continue to skyrocket, the state-level IT systems that process claims are buckling. As some states move to upgrade their systems, the federal Labor Department is reauthorizing its mandatory IT modernization checklist and asking for feedback on its efficacy.

On Monday, the Labor Department will publish a notice in the Federal Register of its plans to reauthorize data collection for the Unemployment Insurance Information Technology Modernization Pre-Implementation Planning Checklist, a required resource for states improving their systems.

The checklist was created in 2017, designed as a reference guide for states to ensure basic usability of new unemployment benefits and tax systems “prior to ‘go live,’” the notice states.

“The checklist can be used to verify that all necessary system functions are available and/or that alternative workarounds are developed prior to the production launch of the [unemployment insurance] IT system to help avoid major disruption of services to UI customers and to prevent delays in making UI benefit payments when due,” Labor officials said in the notice.

The original 2017 authorization noted many state unemployment systems have not been updated in decades, some as far back as the 1970s.

“As a result, many states are modernizing antiquated UI IT systems,” the 2017 document states. “However, recent efforts by states in launching new UI IT systems have resulted in unexpected disruptions of service to customers, delays in the payments of benefits and the creation of processing backlogs.”

To avoid these pitfalls, the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration developed the checklist of 11 best practices for state agencies to focus on before deploying new systems:

  • Functionality and workarounds.
  • External alternate access options and usability issues addressed;
  • Policies and procedures.
  • Technical preparation for system implementation.
  • Call center/customer service operations.
  • Business process.
  • Help desk.
  • Management oversight.
  • Vendor support/communications.
  • Communication processes and procedures.
  • Labor market information federal reporting functions (added in 2019).

The notice to be published Monday does not mention any updates or additions to the checklist.

Monday’s notice does include a list of questions for stakeholders, including whether the information being collected is valuable, what additional information the agency should ask for, and ways to lessen the reporting burden on state unemployment offices. The comment period will be open through June 4.