The State of Wisconsin is taking steps to modernize their unemployment system after more than a year of backlogged cases. The announcement came Wednesday, and the state is planning on using nearly $80 million of federal Coronavirus relief money to make it happen.
At the center of the updates will be IT infrastructure and software, which has plagued the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) since the pandemic began and before.
“We have a 50-year-old, almost 50-year-old systems that are aging. They are hard to maintain, hard to enhance. We knew that the systems were old, we had plans to modernize those, and the pandemic hit,” said Neeraj Kulkarni, Chief Information Officer and IT Director for the DWD.
$16.5 million of the federal money will go towards a deal with Madison-based software developer Flexion. In a news release Wednesday, DWD said “The contract with Madison-based Flexion will involve integration of additional off-the-shelf software and cloud-based solutions along with significant custom software development, as determined through discovery.”
The department’s website says there are 7,800 cases delayed while they are being adjudicated and another 7,100 cases are still waiting to be adjudicated. Kulkarni says the new software won’t be a fix for many of them. “It’s going to help going forward,” he said.
DWD expects to use the rest of the money to modernize the call center, address support outside business hours, change management efforts, and of course the new IT software. Kulkarni says he expects the project's initial release will be in the next 6-8 months, with the entire timeline being determined once the project starts.