To the editor of THE EAGLE:
A feature article and follow-up column in The Berkshire Eagle on Sept. 15 expressed concerns by some across the region in accessing and using the state's modernized unemployment insurance (UI) system. But prior to implementing UI Online, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) was struggling with another concern -- not if, but when DUA would replace a nearly 30-year-old obsolete and fragmented system. To keep up with the pace of technology, DUA launched UI Online on July 1, integrating a multifaceted computer system for both employers and job seekers.
For the vast majority of UI claimants, the new system is working and we're seeing success in large numbers to reflect this trend. The overwhelming majority of claimants are certifying for their weekly benefits via a short, no--wait telephone call or over the Internet. Since the launch, an average of 115,000 claimants interface with the system on a weekly basis and the commonwealth has paid nearly $400 million in benefits to date. Over time, this new system will also create greater efficiencies for employers and job seekers, streamline the claims process, and strengthen the state's ability to prevent, detect and rectify UI fraud.
However, I understand that system success is irrelevant to the claimant who is without benefits or couldn't reach a claims representative. Even one claimant experiencing a problem is one too many. I want to assure Berkshire residents, and particularly those in the UI system, that I hear you. I am mindful of the concerns in this region, especially understanding broadband connectivity is a challenge for some residents. I also thank members of the legislative delegation for providing feedback and being a voice for constituents.
In working with DUA, we are considering further solutions that will fully serve Berkshire residents in the UI system, and I look forward to delivering additional options in the very near future. JOANNE F. GOLDSTEIN
Joanne F. Goldstein is secretary of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.