Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency seeking new computer software

A long process of hiring a new company to provide software for the benefits and tax systems is beginning
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 11:36 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is beginning a process to hire a new benefits and tax system software vendor after a tumultuous year.

The agency plans to issue a request for information from companies able to replace key computer systems that power unemployment benefits claims and payments from employers. The current system has been in use for nine years since 2012.

The information request will allow the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency to learn about products available on the market able to drive the complex program while providing strong security measures for personal information. Officials hope to use that information to produce a request for proposals from vendors.

“It’s been nearly 10 years since we first started using our current system and we want to provide a better, more agile user experience for both our claimant and employer users,” said Liza Estlund Olson, acting director of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.

She expects the process of identifying a new vendor and developing a contract will be lengthy. Companies have five weeks to respond to the request for information with proposals based on seven key goals.

Michigan recently approved a one-year extension with FAST Enterprises, which manages the software behind the unemployment agency’s benefits and tax systems.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has been under fire for the past 18 months after its systems were inundated with claims in March and April 2020, when the state’s first COVID-19 measures ordered thousands of businesses to close or curtail operations.

More than 2.4 million people have received part of over $38 billion in unemployment benefits since March 2020.

Thousands of workers who encountered problems or errors with their unemployment benefits claims complained about long waits or a total inability to get adequate help completing their application.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration increased staffing at the agency by five times during the coronavirus and added new ways for workers to seek help, including an online live chat portal and a virtual appointment system for claims representatives to chat with workers online.

Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature have launched an investigation into the unemployment agency’s shortcomings and are calling for change in leadership.

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