PA's unemployment computer system to shut down while undergoing replacement
Pennsylvania residents who need to file for jobless benefits must do so before 9 p.m. tonight to ensure that their claims are processed before the state's computer system goes down for an upgrade and overhaul until June 8.
- The Department of Labor and Industry is transitioning its decades-old unemployment compensation system to a new system that the state says should be faster and easier to use.
- However, in an article on Monday, SpotlightPA reported that the transition is expected to be bumpy.
- Technology experts and unemployment advocates have been questioning why the state would make the transition while it has been struggling with getting benefits to unemployed workers during the pandemic. Similar transitions in other states have not gone well, according to the article.
Why switch: The state's new system will be based in the cloud. The state claims in a news release that it will be easier to use, provide faster access to relevant information and streamline the filing process for workers, employers and state workers. The user experience will be similar to that of other websites consumers use, the state said.
- "The system will be mobile and tablet-friendly and will enable faster communications between users and L&I staff," the news release said.
- The state will hold workshops and demonstrations on how to use the new system. But the SpotlightPA article suggested that the education tools are cumbersome and not practical.
- The changes are part of a $35 million contract with Geographic Solutions Inc. of Florida, SpotlightPA reported.
What does the shutdown mean for workers: People who are scheduled to file a biweekly claim the week of May 30 to June 5 must have their filing complete by 9 p.m. tonight.
- They can file for those weeks after the new system comes online, but the payment might be delayed.
- No claims processing will take place while the system is offline.
- The system will be offline for everyone, including L&I staff members.
- However, the UC Service Center will keep phones and email lines open to answer questions about the offline period and to take general questions.
WHAT'S ENDING: Pandemic restrictions. As of June 1, all businesses, events and venues can return to 100 percent capacity in Pennsylvania.
- However, the current order from Gov. Tom Wolf still requires masks for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals.
- That rule will remain in place until June 28 or when 70 percent of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated, whichever comes first.
- Additionally, people are still being required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.
- People also should follow guidance at workplaces, local businesses, long-term care facilities, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters.
Why is this happening: Vaccinations are up and cases of Covid-19 are down,
- “We have made great strides throughout the commonwealth to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Wolf said in a statement. “As we lift mitigation orders, it is important for eligible Pennsylvanians to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting vaccinated is our best defense against this virus and ensuring individuals and their loved ones remain safe as we reopen Pennsylvania.”
WHO'S GOING BITCOIN: Sheetz. The Altoona-based restaurant and convenience store chain soon will be enabling payments using bitcoin and other digital currency via Flexa, a digital payments network.
- Customers eventually will have the ability to pay for items inside the store or fill up their vehicles at the pump using digital currencies like bitcoin, ether, litecoin, dogecoin, and others, the company said in a news release.
- Sheetz will begin accepting digital currencies at select Sheetz Cafe Stores later this summer, with a planned rollout later in the year for acceptance at Sheetz's fuel pumps.
The background: Sheetz operates 622 stores in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland.
WHAT'S OPENING: A York County medical marijuana dispensary for Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. The Arizona-based company has opened a dispensary just outside the city of York, the company's tenth location in Pennsylvania.
- Harvest of York is at 2300 E. Market Street in Springettsbury Township.
- It is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- The other Harvest dispensaries in Pennsylvania are in Camp Hill, Cranberry Township, Harrisburg, Johnstown, King of Prussia, Reading (two locations), Scranton, and Whitehall.
The background: Headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, Harvest is a vertically integrated cannabis company and multi-state operator of medical marijuana facilities.
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Compiled and written by Joel Berg