Democrats introduce bill to fix unemployment systems technology

Democrats introduce bill to fix unemployment systems technology
© Greg Nash

Four Democratic Senators introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at revamping the technology powering the country’s unemployment insurance system.

The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act would seek to create standardized unemployment websites and features that states could choose to adopt.

The bill also calls for regular testing and servicing of unemployment systems and the establishment of a team at the Labor Department to help states with technological issues.

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The legislation comes after technical errors plagued the delivery of unemployment assistance to the millions of Americans who lost their jobs at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

“While enhanced jobless benefits have enabled millions and millions of families to pay the rent and buy groceries, many states have been unable to get benefits out the door in a timely manner,” Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats' reconciliation bill breaks Biden's middle class tax pledge Missouri education department calls journalist 'hacker' for flagging security flaws on state website Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates MORE (D-Ore.), the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement introducing the legislation. “That’s completely unacceptable when families are depending on these benefits to keep a roof over their heads.” 

The bill is also backed by Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBuilding back better by investing in workers and communities US on track to miss debt payments as soon as Oct. 19: analysis On The Money — Presented by NRHC — Democrats cross the debt ceiling Rubicon MORE (D-Ohio), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP tries to take filibuster pressure off Manchin, Sinema Manchin signals he won't support filibuster carveout for debt hike Democrats insist they won't back down on debt ceiling MORE (D-Va.) and Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoMcConnell-aligned group targeting Kelly, Cortez Masto and Hassan with M ad campaign Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada Manchin's 'red line' on abortion splits Democrats MORE (D-Nev.).

The legislation includes a commitment to using cybersecurity best practices during the development of the new technology and seeks to avoid the use of algorithms to make potentially biased decisions on who qualifies for aid.