TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Department of Labor, KDOL, is taking a step toward starting a major modernization project to update a decades-old computer system.
Governor Laura Kelly and KDOL Secretary Amber Shultz announced Tuesday that more efforts are coming to modernize the state unemployment system.
The agency is now asking interested software platforms to make an offer to update the state’s 40-year-old unemployment computer system, known as a request for proposal (RFP).
“The RFP process is the next major step in our effort to modernize. We plan to expedite this process as much as possible, while taking care to engage the business community, workers, and legislators. Over the past year, we have been able to stabilize our underlying systems which were not equipped to handle the volume of pandemic-related claims or the complexity of the new federal programs. The stabilization efforts worked and will help to speed modernization implementation once a vendor is selected.”AMBER SHULTZ, KANSAS SECRETARY OF LABOR
KDOL Deputy Secretary Peter Brady told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau that the project will help the agency provide better service to unemployed Kansans.
“It’s going to set us up to much better handle whatever the next economic downturn is. We talked about modernization across the country,” Brady said. “And while it didn’t solve all the problems, states that had modernized prior to this pandemic were generally-speaking a little bit better prepared.”
The state has pointed to an outdated computer system as one of the main causes for issues the state’s labor office has faced during the pandemic. This includes payment delays and struggling to deal with a high volume of fraud.
The department said the project’s expected to take three to five years to complete based on other state timelines, but they’re planning to move quickly to get it done as soon as possible.
“There is some optimism that because many states have gone through modernization, and many more are about to undertake it, that the timeframe may speed up,” Brady said. “We’re certainly hopeful that, that might be the case, but we also want to set realistic expectations.”
According to a national workforce agency, Kansas is one of 30 states that needs to update their computer system to ensure timely payment of benefits.
According to the Division of the Budget, KDOL estimates modernizing the IT system would cost $46.7 million.
The governor has asked the Kansas Legislature to consider a budget of $37.5 million for renovations to KDOL, which includes money going towards a deal struck with a software firm that replaces the department’s current, outdated computer system.