Modernization Efforts are Moving Forward for Wisconsin’s Outdated Unemployment System

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development moved forward Wednesday with plans to modernize the state’s unemployment insurance system as it emerges from problems brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Madison-based software development company Flexion will help bring the department’s decades-old computer systems and technology up to date as part of a $16.5 million contract.

DWD is working to release updates to the unemployment system as they become ready, said Stacia Jankowski of the department’s Office of Integrity and Accountability.

“Our modernization strategy reflects an iterative approach to … customer service improvements as soon as possible while claims processing continues uninterrupted,” said Jankowski.

Jankowski said the overall cost of those modernization efforts was projected to be around $80 million. According to the department press release, federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and the CARES Act are paying for those upgrades.

The changes would bring more timeliness and automation into DWD’s operations, such as in the addition of chat bots and virtual agents, said Neeraj Kulkarni, the department’s chief information officer and IT bureau director.

“DWD will be able to respond quickly to changing UI needs through greater flexibility in hiring and training resources to assist in times of need because using the system will be familiar and intuitive,” said Kulkarni.