Rhode Island’s 1950s Technology is Slowing Processing and Payment of Unemployment Claims – GoLocalProv

Posted: April 11, 2020 at 8:04 pm

Friday, April 10, 2020

GoLocalProv News Team

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Governor Gina Raimondo

Unemployment claim filings are hitting record highs nationally, and in Rhode Island, the latest numbers show that more than 175,000 in Rhode Island are out of work.

That outdated system is slowing down the processing of claims and delaying payments to out of work Rhode Islanders.

Rhode Islanders are filing more claims in a day than the state has ever received in a month -- Rhode Islands technology is obsolete, using what is termed obscure COBOL computer language ,which was developed in 1959.

Wanted urgently: People who know a half-century-old computer language so states can process unemployment claims, wrote CNN on Thursday.

Obsolete 1950s computer code is causing unemployment chaos amid huge lines: Appeal for retired programmers who know obscure COBOL language to fix outdated computer system in states across U.S, reported the Daily Mail, who wrote that officials in New Jersey,Kansas,Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Mississippi, and Oklahomahave "all admitted struggling to [process] growing applications."

Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training spokesperson Angelika Pellegrino told GoLocal on Thursday,Rhode Islands system does currently require programmers with COBOL proficiency,"

"We currently have 4 COBOL programmers, and are looking to increase capacity," she added.

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Grace Hopper, PHOTO: USN

According to Wikipedia:

COBOL was designed in 1959 byCODASYLand was partly based on previous programming language design work byGrace Hopper, commonly referred to as "the (grand)mother of COBOL." It was created as part of aUS Department of Defenseeffort to create aportableprogramming language for data processing.

It was originally seen as a stopgap, but the Department of Defense promptly forced computer manufacturers to provide it, resulting in its widespread adoption

2018 Flood Nearly Destroyed DLT's Tech Infrastructure

For years DLT officials knew their system was decades outdated, non-scalable and failed to have basic backup.

While the state continues to upgrade its IT systems to modern, cloud-based environments over time, there are numerous legacy systems that still exist. The Department of Labor & Training IT system is one of those legacy systems. We continue to evaluate all options for hosting, management and disaster recovery to ensure cost-efficient, safe and secure protection of the states data," Brenna McCabe of the Raimondo administration told GoLocal in 2018.

The disclosure unveiled that Rhode Island has been operating an outdated and highly vulnerable technology infrastructure in many agencies.

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1981 PC, PHOTO: Brandon Ziga Cortez

As GoLocal reported in 2018:

Flooding from the overnight storm has put key customer-facing websites including the Teleserve system that provides telephone and Internet access to Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims temporarily offline," the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT).

"Rainwater seeped into DLTs data center at 1511 Pontiac Avenue in Cranston, powering off computer systems automatically. The state Department of Administration is working with DLT to assess the full impact and restore power as soon as possible, said the agency.

According to multiple sources, DLT officials were panicked that critical data was lost. The backup protocols are outdated and incomplete.

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Rhode Island's 1950s Technology is Slowing Processing and Payment of Unemployment Claims - GoLocalProv

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