Described as “a giant leap forward,” Pennsylvania launched its new unemployment compensation system Tuesday, replacing a 40-year-old system that was overwhelmed last year by claimants as the coronavirus pandemic led to an avalanche of job losses.
In the works for 15 years, state officials have promised that the new system will be simpler and easier to use, but in the hours after it launched at 3:08 a.m. Tuesday, some glitches were reported. Some users reported receiving “invalid password” messages, and others said they were told they would receive benefits by debit card rather than the direct deposit into their accounts that they preferred. A phone outage was also reported, but it affected several other state agencies.
Jennifer Berrier, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I), said in an online media briefing Tuesday afternoon that the hiccups were “not unexpected,” and that despite the snags, 62,000 users had successfully filed for benefits in a 10-hour period.
“We expected there were going to be glitches,” Berrier said. “We want to see all eligible claimants receive the benefits they are entitled to.”
Officials say the new system will not only be easier for users, but it will also be easier for staff and will require less time for claims to be processed.
The system had been offline in the days before Tuesday as part of the transition from the old system to the new one. Officials with L&I said they had anticipated a high volume users of Tuesday, and some users were put into a “waiting room” to prevent the system from crashing. The waiting room places users in a queue, then admits to the site as other users sign off.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program has not been affected by the shift to the new system.