PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Employment Department says in July it will start upgrading the obsolete computer system that pays jobless benefits.
That would end a 12-year delay that caused a catastrophic breakdown in distributing aid during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Oregon’s new system won’t be in place until 2024.
Oregon was among the slowest states in the nation at paying jobless benefits during the pandemic, with laid-off workers frequently waiting weeks or months for aid.
The employment department was hindered by a rigid computer system from the 1990s, which was unable to adapt to added benefits Congress added last year.
The huge volume of claims – Oregon has paid out more than $9 billion during the pandemic – meant months of delays.
Oregon received $86 million in federal aid to upgrade its technology in 2009, but administrative failures in the employment department stopped the work from happening. The state still has almost all the money the federal government allocated for the upgrade.
The employment department didn’t say Wednesday how much it expects the project will cost, but past estimates have put the total between $80 million and $123 million.