Maine unemployment claims system will be down for a week

By Joe Lawlor, Portland Press Herald | Nov 29, 2017

Mainers will be unable to file unemployment claims for one week — from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 — while the state implements a cloud-based system for filing claims as part of a collaboration with three other states aimed at reducing administrative costs and fraud.

The Maine Department of Labor announced it is joining the ReEmployUSA partnership — which so far includes Mississippi, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut — to streamline processing of claims through a new software program.

ReEmployME is a “faster, more efficient way to file for unemployment insurance benefits,” the Labor Department said in a statement. Maine had a 3.5-percent unemployment rate in October. Maine’s labor force is about 705,000 workers with 25,000 unemployed, according to federal statistics.

There were 923 new claims and 4,164 continuing unemployment benefits being paid out for the week ending Nov. 11, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The remaining unemployed who are not receiving paychecks had their benefits run out previously or do not otherwise qualify for unemployment.

The new claims system — first implemented in Mississippi — also marries state unemployment and job matching services. The U.S. Department of Labor granted the four states $90 million to develop the system, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security said in a statement. Maine has been working on the project with Mississippi since 2013.

“This new system is the result of years of work in collaboration with other states to create a modern, efficient unemployment system,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage said in a written statement. “The focus of unemployment is to get people back to work quickly in a permanent or a temporary bridge job. This system will not only do just that, but it will also save taxpayer money over time because of the ReEmployUSA partnership with other states. ReEmployME is a national model.”

Mississippi launched its system Aug. 30, and Rhode Island and Connecticut are expected to start their systems within the next two years.

Dale Smith, CEO of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, said much of the system is highly automated, cutting the cost of administering unemployment benefits from about $6.5 million to a projected $2.5 million.

“There’s a lot of processes now that we no longer have to do manually,” Smith said in a phone interview with the Press Herald Nov. 27.

Smith said Mississippi’s system was down a total of eight days in a phased roll-out, so Maine’s weeklong shutdown is reasonable for such a large new technology launch.

“Unemployment insurance provides temporary, partial wage replacement to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own,” Maine Commissioner of Labor John Butera said in a statement. “Support for claimants while they search for reemployment is the end goal of the unemployment insurance program. The new ReEmployME system will provide claimants with around-the-clock ability to file for benefits and provide more accurate information to reduce fraud.”

The system is the first in the nation to use a “multi-tenant unemployment insurance system on the cloud,” a statement by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security said.

“We are one step closer to creating the future for delivery of unemployment solutions in a cost-effective manner, while being conscientious stewards of our state workforce funds,” said Smith, the department’s CEO.

Smith said the new system “connects with ease to Mississippi’s equally capable workforce technology, MSWORKS, allowing our customers access to both unemployment and job-matching services through a single sign-on.”

Jim Smith, Maine’s chief information officer, said in a statement that ReEmployME “is a very important milestone and a critical project, which has been made possible as the result of the strong partnership among multiple states. Working together, we are proving that it is possible to create software that can efficiently deliver services across multiple states. I believe this will be the pathway for the future, as states search for ways to build cost-effective solutions.”

Smith believes more states will join the system once it’s demonstrated that it works and saves money.

“Once Maine launches on Dec. 6, the concept will be proven, that multiple states can operate within the same system,” Smith said.

The current system will be down starting at 4 p.m. Nov. 30 through Dec. 6.

Those who need help starting an account can call 623-6765 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except state and federal holidays.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Nov 29, 2017 20:36

Question......Did the Dept of Labor in MS have it's budget cut by 4 million dollars or did taxes remain feeding the machine?  How many employees in the Department of Labor for the State of Maine will end up needing unemployment?  $4 Million seems like a lot of employees salaries!

 

Will be an interesting follow up story to see if State of Maine taxes are allowed to be lowered or did those funds end up in the general fund?



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