Legislators Updated on UI Strategic Planning Changes

Officials with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet updated the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Reform Task Force on strategic planning efforts. Tuesday’s meeting included questions about whether the effort to revamp the UI computer system is a good use of taxpayer money.

Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link testified about the ongoing request for proposals (RFP) process. The Cabinet reworked and released an RFP for a new system in August after identifying concerns with the request’s requirements and future security needs.

Link said that proposals are due October 19, and the project will cost an estimated $47.5 million.

Upon learning that the request seeks to build a Kentucky-specific product and not use existing software tailored to the state’s needs, Representative Phillip Pratt (R-Georgetown) questioned Link. “I’m extremely concerned at the cost of this,” Pratt said. “I’ve looked at the RFP. You’re building this from the ground up. This seems to be a waste of taxpayer dollars. I’m very concerned about that.”

Link responded that other states are being forced to take on the same process because the pandemic revealed concerns none had experienced before. “I appreciate your comments, and I totally agree with them. We are going to do everything we can to make sure we get the most economical, best product we can so we don’t have to address the same issues in future years,” Link replied.

Office of Unemployment Insurance Executive Director Buddy Hoskinson testified that strategic planning sessions have begun to identify system, product, and work solution updates.

A solution that Kentuckians may see online soon includes a data dashboard that will display the total number of new claims, continuing claims, issues, total claims awaiting claimant action, and total amount paid.

Hoskinson said that virtual appointments and fraud prevention efforts are having an impact as UI looks to clear a backlog of cases. However, he explained that workforce shortages impact the effort, a problem plaguing all job sectors.

The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) is sending a “tiger team” to look at UI updates. Hoskinson testified that the teams would offer expert-level advice on a range of issues after reviewing what has and has not worked in Kentucky and other states. Hoskinson said the tiger team would begin on October 5.