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Pennsylvania's New Unemployment Claims System Goes Live

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s long-awaited overhaul of its unemployment claims filing system went live on Tuesday, with some users immediately complaining about glitches and the state agency that runs the program reporting a phone outage that temporarily prevented it from making or receiving calls.

More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic swamped the state's old claims system, officials promised the replacement would be easy to use, both simplify and speed up the process of filing a claim, and incorporate features to reduce the opportunity for fraud.

But people trying to migrate to the new website quickly ran into trouble — and weren't shy about expressing their displeasure online.

The agency acknowledged some users got “invalid password” messages, while others had trouble connecting to the server. It said fixes were in progress.

“What a frustrating morning,” Debra Faulhefer, who said she spent about three hours trying to register, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “But I was expecting it. I would’ve fallen over if it were smooth sailing.”

Faulhefer, 61, of Macungie, said the system would not allow her to choose direct deposit as her method of payment, only debit card, which she did not want. She logged out and then tried logging back in to see if that would help — only to be frozen out of her account entirely because the system didn't recognize her new password.

“They did not thoroughly check the whole system," she said. “How did they test this? I want to know how they tested this. Come on! It's got all these hang-ups.”

Many other claimants also expressed alarm when the system told them they'd receive benefits by debit card and not direct deposit. But the Department of Labor & Industry said it was “just a display issue and not a problem with payment type."

The department also reported a phone outage that prevented it from making or receiving calls, but said the issue was resolved by midday Tuesday.

Pennsylvania had been relying on a 40-year-old computer system to process unemployment benefits. That system was swamped by a record-shattering number of claims last year. The replacement computer system that went live on Tuesday had been under development since 2006 and was plagued by delays and cost overruns.

State officials were scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon to provide an update on the new system.