Maine’s Unemployment System Receives More Than $10 Million in Grant Monies from the US Department of Labor Bookmark and Share

October 30, 2012

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2012 Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 207-621-5009

Funds will be used to improve the unemployment system

Augusta—The Bureau of Unemployment Compensation (BUC) of the Maine Department of Labor learned this month that it has been awarded a $10 million dollar grant to participate in a new three-state consortium effort to replace the unemployment information system with a cloud-based infrastructure. Additional grants totaling approximately $1.5 million dollars will be used to improve the operations of the unemployment insurance program in Maine, including the prevention of unemployment insurance fraud.

The Department of Labor has joined a federally funded consortium comprised of Maine, Mississippi and Rhode Island to develop a new information technology system for the Unemployment Insurance program. This effort will use proven technology to create a cloud-based system that states can modify to meet their statutory needs. The consortium has received $90 million in federal funding, $10 million of which will be apportioned to Maine to cover the majority of its state-related costs.

Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette explained that this system will streamline the administration of the program, improve efficiency and greatly improve online access for both employers and claimants.

“We anticipate realizing dramatic savings in system maintenance costs compared to the systems it will replace,” she noted. “Having one central system to maintain will not only save significant duplication of efforts for consortium partners but also provide the potential for even greater cost savings should other states join us once the system is up and running.”

She added, “This consortium is an excellent example of collaboration between Maine, other states, and the U.S. Department of Labor to achieve a common goal: better and more efficient unemployment systems for citizens and businesses. We appreciate the support of both the LePage Administration and the USDOL in creating the consortium.”

The new system will leverage a fully modernized unemployment insurance computer system, already in use in Mississippi, as the core system for all three states. A customized software layer oriented to Maine Employment Security law will replace Maine’s aging Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Tax systems.

The $1.5 million in other grant monies will provide support for a variety of performance improvements to existing programs.

Two outreach initiatives received specific funding. The State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES) and SIDES E-Response, which is scheduled to be rolled out in two phases in the next six months, offer employers and third party administrators a no-charge, secure, electronic and nationally standardized format in which they can easily respond to UI information requests, attach documentation when needed and receive a date-stamped confirmation of receipt.

Federal funding for SIDES messaging will reach out to employers regarding the benefits of using SIDES. For participating employers, SIDES reduces the need for follow-up phone calls and streamlines unemployment insurance related processes, reducing paper work while saving time and money for participating employers.

The second outreach effort will use short videos to illustrate important aspects of the unemployment system for both individuals and businesses. Video topics include common mistakes made by claimants, unemployment insurance fraud, work-search tips and how to lower unemployment taxes for businesses.

Other awards included funds for the department’s Cross-Functional Task Force, the goal of which is to decrease Maine’s improper payment rate and prevent fraud. A number of system improvements in claims taking, non-monetary adjudication activities and information technology projects related to automation of business processes, including the elimination of backlogs, also received support.

The Department of Labor administers Maine’s unemployment insurance system.