The Bulletin

Virginia delays launch of new unemployment system after auditors warned of ‘major risks’

By: - September 28, 2021 3:40 pm

Virginia’s state flag flies in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Employment Commission says it’s delaying the launch of a new unemployment insurance system. The announcement comes a week after legislative auditors warned of “major project risks” associated with the upgrade.

Among potential problems, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission noted that the agency was struggling with incomplete and inaccurate conversions of existing unemployment insurance data and that the agency had no built-in redundancy in case of a system failure.

Auditors also noted that staff training on the new system had only started in mid-September.

The employment commission had planned to go live with the new system at the beginning of October. They have pushed that back a month to November.

Spokeswoman Joyce Fogg said the exact date is still to be determined.

“We are still assessing potential options, but 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,” she said.

The new system replaces one from 1985 that has strained under the unprecedented demand for help amid the pandemic. Among other things, officials say the new system will make it easier to submit applications, upload documents and get help with problems — all common complaints from people seeking help.

In the works for more than a decade, the project has faced years of delays.

It was initially scheduled to go live in 2013. A report by the state auditor of public accounts that year warned that staff turnover at the contractor hired to implement the new system and the possibility of budget shortfalls threatened the project’s success.

According to the update presented by legislative auditors last month, staff turnover remains an issue almost a decade later.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.