Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee All On the Same System?

An antiquated computer system is slowing payments to South Carolina's jobless and officials say it will take weeks to bring the system up to speed.

The Greenville News reported Sunday that the 23-year-old computer system at the Employment Security Commission isn't set up to allow payments to jobless workers who have been unemployed for more than 79 weeks.

ESC assistant deputy executive director Jimmy Jones said the 23-year-old system was not designed to make payments easily and has to be programmed to allow the payments. Jones said that could take at least two weeks.

"It could be longer," Jones said. But the agency can't go outside to get experts to work on the system because it is so old and in-house staffers understand how it works, he said.

Asked if the agency could use experts from places like Clemson University or the University of South Carolina, Jones said, "We really can't utilize people like that."

The issue of the agency's computer system initially came up in January when Gov. Mark Sanford and the state Department of Commerce wanted information about unemployment claims and jobs that the ESC said its computers couldn't produce without significant programming that could take up to six months to complete.

Jones said the agency sent officials to Virginia to check out their computer system because it was one that provided information similar to what Sanford was requesting. But the real problem was the governor requested data ESC didn't compile and track.

Currently, South Carolina is a member of a four-state consortium that is working to determine the feasibility of designing a system that could be used by all four states, with tweaking for each state's individual unemployment system programs, he said.

The feasibility study, expected to take 18 months to two years, will kick off next month and be funded with a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Once the study is completed, the consortium of the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee will seek another grant to build the system, he said. That could easily be in the range of $50 million and also would be funded by the Labor Department.
blog comments powered by Disqus