The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is delaying the roll out of its new unemployment insurance system intended to help modernize user experience on its website and relieve strain on call centers until the beginning of November. On September 17, the VEC announced that its current system would go offline to allow for the upgrade starting September 29. But a new announcement states that the changeover will occur in late October through early November, the latest delay in a modernization project originally scheduled for completion in 2013.
Secretary of Labor Megan Healy told ABC8, “The decision to have the claimants who are in the UI system to move the last week in October instead of this week was made last Friday. The statewide accounting system for all the state agencies is going live Oct. 1 and the VEC is also in the middle of their annual APA audit. A lot is going on.”
Amid an enormous backlog of claims requiring extra review, the VEC has faced a lawsuit, enormous call center wait times, and the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) is reviewing the agency. A presentation to legislators last week said the modernization project started in 2009, and the current Phase Three was originally scheduled for completion in May 2013.
The report found the new system will help reduce call volumes and improve the claims process. JLARC reported that the antiquated system has contributed to the VEC’s COVID-19-era problems, including a largely paper-based claims system, difficulty training new staff, inefficient processes, and frustrated staff.
“Modernized UI benefits system is expected to improve claims process, but unmitigated risks could limit success of October 1 launch and future system functionality,” the report states.
The October 1 go-live date would have included many but not all functions of the new system. But the JLARC report warned that risks including long downtime during changeover, no redundancy to cover a system failure, and incomplete staff training threaten the project.
“Our primary focus is to take a few more weeks to allow for more time on testing and training to ensure the best possible outcome,” VEC spokesperson Joyce Fogg told ABC8.