Montana Successfully Replaces Decades-Old Unemployment Insurance System

  • — November 09 2023

System modernization will improve customer experience, increase efficiencies, save taxpayer resources

MONTANA- The Montana Department of Labor & Industry has successfully launched its new unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and tax system, following more than a year of development and testing. The new system comes with added features, making it simpler for UI claimants to apply for benefits and request payments, while also making it easier for employers to pay their UI taxes.

Development of the new system began in August of 2022 and was formally launched to the public on Monday, October 2. Over the course of the month, thousands of UI claimants successfully filed their benefits claims and received payments. Montana employers successfully filed their required quarterly wage reports, due at the end of October. As some users encountered friction adapting to the new system, staff were available to resolve issues.

Prior to the launch, Montana UI utilized a decades-old legacy benefits system which had exceeded its functional lifecycle and was prone to crashes or glitches that delayed benefits payments. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting influx of unemployment claims demonstrated the dire need for modernization.

“Modernizing state government is critical to better serving our customers, the people of Montana, and being better stewards of their hard-earned money,” Governor Greg Gianforte said. “With its new, improved unemployment benefits system, the Department of Labor & Industry will save taxpayer dollars, bring greater efficiencies to the UI system, and better assist Montanans.”

“The last time Montana modernized its UI system, Montanans were using dial-up modems with their home telephone lines to access the internet and visit AOL and Yahoo,” said Commissioner of Labor & Industry Sarah Swanson. “This modernized platform brings Montana UI into the 21st century and will cut down dramatically on unnecessary paperwork sent through the mail. The result will be a faster, simpler filing process for claimants and a modern, easier-to-use interface for employers as they file reports and pay UI taxes.”

Among the new features of the system are a mobile-friendly interface, allowing claimants access from their phones, which could not be done with the old system. Instant, secure messaging enables claimants and employers to chat directly with UI customer service agents. Automated, secure fact-finding reduces the strain on employers who were previously forced to communicate with UI via fax or mail.

Initial data gathered since last month’s launch indicates that approximately half of claimants are accessing UI services from their phones or tablets utilizing the new mobile-friendly functionality. The average time to file a weekly payment request is taking just 6.5 minutes.

“Secure messaging, the ability to upload documents, and a mobile friendly environment will be a game changer for our customers and staff. This new platform gains us many internal efficiencies, but whether an employer or a claimant, UI is most excited about providing a better customer experience for the citizens of Montana,” said Paul Martin, Administrator of the Department’s Unemployment Insurance Division.

Deployment of the new system required an intensive data conversion and launch process. More than 227,000 customer accounts were migrated from DLI’s legacy system, along with more than 2.8 million weeks of claims data.

The new system was procured at a cost – approximately $13.5 million – far less than many other states have paid for similarly modern systems. DLI utilized federal pandemic relief funds to finance development.

“Thanks to diligent work by Governor Gianforte, State CIO Kevin Gilbertson and DLI leadership, this system isn’t just a win for claimants and employers – it’s delivering big savings for taxpayers, as well,” Swanson said.

The Department preceded the launch with a robust customer and public engagement campaign, communicating directly with employers and claimants, as well as trade associations, local chambers of commerce, and organized labor. The goal of the campaign was to educate employers and claimants about the coming changes and mitigate customer friction as they adapt to the new system.

“While we are very pleased with the ease of use and improvements in our UI system, we know that some users adapt to change more easily than others. Our customer service personnel are standing by and ready to assist claimants or employers who need help navigating the new interface,” Swanson said.

Customers can access the system, as well as extensive tutorial videos and frequently asked questions, by visiting MontanaWorks.Gov.

Contact Sam Loveridge: Public Information Officer, Department of Labor and Industry
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