The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico has assigned $10 million to the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources for technological upgrades for a system that is decades old.
Agency Secretary Carlos Rivera-Santiago confirmed that the upgrade to a new data system to process unemployment information and payments will begin this year, but will not be ready until at least 2021, if the new administration provides continuity to the project.
“This was recently assigned, and right now we’re in the process of assessment of the type of program that will benefit our employment insurance and are looking around at different companies,” he said, of the initiative to replace the agency’s technology, which dates to the 1980s.
At present, the agency is putting together its specification requirements, to then put out a general Request for Proposals for a new computerized system, he said.
“We have to focus right now on our main concern, which is unemployment insurance and develop a specific RFP for that because that’s our critical area,” Rivera-Santiago said.
While he said the initiative is being fast-tracked, he recognized that the overhaul will not be completed by December. General elections in November are expected to bring a new administration that will bring about new agency heads.
“We know that the complexity of this program will mean it will take at least eight or nine months to complete,” Rivera-Santiago said. “My goal is to begin the process. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of months with COVID-19 either.”
Saying he cannot shut down the agency’s current computer system because it could cause a disruption in unemployment claims, because “it’s like changing tire of a car while it’s running,” Santiago-Rivera said he is pushing to begin the upgrade “and advance on it as much as possible.”
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