Delivering unemployment assistance in times of crisis

Key Insights ● The COVID-19 public health emergency caused widespread economic shutdown. The resulting surge in unemployment and Unemployment Insurance benefits claims threatened to overwhelm the legacy systems state workforce agencies rely on to collect, process, and pay claims. ● In the State of Rhode Island, we developed a scalable cloud solution to collect Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims robustly and securely. These claims are part of a new program created under the CARES Act that extended Unemployment Insurance benefits to independent contractors and gig-economy workers not covered by traditional Unemployment Insurance programs. ● Our new system was developed, tested, and deployed within ten days following the passage of the CARES Act, making Rhode Island the first state in the country to collect, validate, and pay Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. A cloud-enhanced interactive voice response system was deployed a week later to handle the corresponding surge in weekly certifications for continuing unemployment benefits. ● Cloud solutions can augment legacy systems by offloading processes that are more efficiently handled in modern scalable systems, reserving the limited resources of legacy systems for what they were originally designed for. This agile use of combined technologies allowed Rhode Island to deliver timely Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits with an estimated cost savings of $502 thousand (representing a 411% return on investment).
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