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KDOL Secretary talks plans to replace decades-old UI system

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 12:16 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) is taking the next step to modernize the state’s unemployment system by officially putting out the call for companies interested in the project.

KDOL recently submitted a request for proposal (RFP) through the Department of Administration to find a vendor to modernize the system.

KDOL Secretary Amber Shultz said Tuesday she hopes to create something that will meet the needs of Kansans for years to come.

“Modernization processes, they are pretty extensive so it’s a constant battle of once you even get the system deployed that you have a proper maintenance plan to make sure the system is up and running and functional for many many years,” she said.

“It’s not only the hardware that’s involved, it’s the system that runs it and then the data behind it and then making sure that our staff is trained and understands the ins and outs of the new system, meanwhile trying to stabilize the old system before we make that switch to the new one.”

Shultz said KDOL is looking for a vendor that gets the importance of unemployment insurance.

“The companies that we’re looking for are companies with proven track records in other states, people that understand the uniqueness that unemployment brings to each state and making sure they meet our needs in a timeframe we accept for them,” she explained.

In her short time as labor secretary, Shultz already has an idea of where she wants to improve.

“First and foremost it would be the customer experience the system that we have cobbled together now make it difficult for the level of service that Kansans deserve,” she said.

“Then it’s also making sure the system is a system of record there’s an authority in our data and understand the entire process is a system of record.”

“Unemployment is a very essential service of the overall social safety net so to make sure that God forbid if we ever have economic downfall that we have right now the modernize system will give Kansans the system that they deserve.”

Shultz has a message to those struggling with the system today.

“I hear you we are working very hard to get the claimant paid I hear you if you are owed a dollar from this agency you will get that dollar you will receive the money you are entitled to,” she said.

KDOL is accepting bids until May 7. The state expects to invest between $40-50 million in the system over the next three to five years.

Previous story published at 12:16 pm

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Department of Labor is taking steps to replace its decades-old Unemployment Insurance system.

Governor Laura Kelly says the Kansas Department of Labor will take a major step in an effort to modernize its Unemployment Insurance system. She said KDOL issued its request for a proposal for modernizing the four-decade-old computer system.

“When I learned that the previous Administration abandoned efforts to modernize the state’s unemployment computer system in 2011, I immediately tasked the agency with reviving its modernization plans,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and the antiquated technology was unable to keep up with the record volume of claims. Today, we are taking a major step in fixing our broken system. We will finish what other Administrations failed to do.”

According to Gov. Kelly, before the pandemic, KDOL staff traveled to states with modernized unemployment systems to learn how Kansas could build a system that would better serve claimants and businesses. Since 2019, she said the agency has dedicated a specialized team to complete and expedite the plan, which will incorporate finds and best practices from the other states.

“The RFP process is the next major step in our effort to modernize,” said Secretary Amber Shultz. “We plan to expedite this process as much as possible while taking care to engage the business community, workers, and legislators. Over the past year, we have been able to stabilize our underlying systems which were not equipped to handle the volume of pandemic-related claims or the complexity of the new federal programs. The stabilization efforts worked and will help to speed modernization implementation once a vendor is selected.”

When she took office in 2019, Gov. Kelly said one of her top priorities was to modernize KDOL’s archaic mainframe UI IT system. However, she said when Kansa faced record unemployment numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency was forced to temporarily suspend its efforts in order to stabilize the decades-old system.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kely said the system has been mostly stabilized and is paying out legitimate claimants in the traditional state unemployment program and new federal benefit programs. She said since March 15, 2020, KDOL has paid out over 4.2 million weekly claims that total over $2.8 billion between regular unemployment and federal pandemic programs.

According to Gov. Kelly, the Kansas Legislature is currently considering her $37.5 million budget request to replace KDOL’s system.

“We are on target to modernize this antiquated system,” said Governor Kelly. “While we navigate the procurement process, we also need the legislature to fund this critical upgrade. It will not be cheap—fixing a system that has been neglected for 40-plus years never is—but failing to act is not an option. I will continue working with the legislature to get this critical project done. We owe it to the people of Kansas.”

Gov. Kelly said the RFT, which was published on Thursday, April 1, has the event number EVT0007951.

For more details about KDOL’s modernization, click HERE.

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