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The Boston Globe

Business

State Senate panel to look at jobless claim system

The state senate’s Committee on Post Audit and Oversight plans to hold a hearing on problems with the rollout of a new $46 million unemployment claims computer system.

Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, the Newton Democrat who chairs the committee, said Thursday she’s holding the hearing Oct. 28 in light of the delays and payment problems experienced by jobless workers since the introduction of the system on July 1. Creem said the hearing will delve into questions surrounding the contract, as well as the larger issue of how the state buys and manages information-technology services.

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Creem, in an interview, said she met with Joanne Goldstein, secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, after she and her colleagues received complaints from unemployed people who were having trouble using the system and receiving benefits. Goldstein acknowledged there had been problems but said that they were being addressed.

But despite such assurances, Creem said she and other legislators continue to receive complaints from users, prompting the need for a public hearing. “I think that warrants a look at what’s going on,” Creem said.

The Globe has chronicled the system’s problems, as Deloitte Consulting, a large New York-based firm, delivered the project two years late and $6 million over budget. Even then the system has had data conversion glitches and other problems that have left hundreds of jobless people waiting weeks, and sometimes months, for benefits so they can pay their bills.

In some cases, claimants were receiving bills saying they owed money; one man was erroneously told he owed $45,000. Another man actually found work, but received a letter saying he owed the state money — a copy of which was also sent to his new employer.

Lauren Jones, a spokeswoman for the Department of Unemployment Assistance, said in a statement, “Secretary Goldstein has engaged legislators throughout the launch of UI Online and is happy to continue to do so as we serve both employers and job seekers’’ in the unemployment insurance system.

“To anyone who has recently lost a job, DUA is the most important face of the state government, and their interaction with claimants should be as smooth and as helpful as possible,” Senator Creem said. “And on behalf of those taxpayers who never need DUA, I want to make sure that state dollars are spent as wisely as possible.”

Beth Healy can be reached at Beth.Healy@globe.com

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