The Department of Labor (DoL) announced new IT modernization plans this week that aim to improve the unemployment insurance (UI) programs launched as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

In a May 3 blog post, the agency said its vision for the ARPA UI modernization program is “an ecosystem built around open and modular solutions.” To achieve this vision, DoL also outlined a 2023 roadmap for its UI modernization plans.

“Achieving this long-term vision will require sustained investment in the UI program and a new ecosystem built around open and modular solutions that promote innovation, software reuse, and incremental – rather than all-or-nothing – approaches to modernization,” the blog post says.

“It will also require the Department to serve as a ‘helper agency’ to state workforce agencies,” it continues. “The department can do this by providing foundational perspectives around ‘what good looks like’ across the various dimensions of modernization, as well as providing core infrastructure, or building blocks, for states, vendors, and other groups to build on and extend in ways that strengthen equitable access, timeliness, and program integrity.”

DoL explained that because UI programs are jointly funded by the Federal government and administered by states, there is no “perfect IT system” or single solution.

However, the agency is turning to new tools such as AI and robotic process automation (RPA) to help states automate their workflows and programs.

For example, the department said it is conducting pilots with states to help them leverage RPA and has published guides, such as the RPA Toolkit, to help states adopt similar approaches.

Additionally, DoL has established partnerships with groups like Stanford University’s RegLab to explore effective and equitable use cases for using technologies such as AI to help states streamline their staff workflows.

“As a helper agency, we are developing technology modules for use by states,” the blog post added. “This includes a claimant experience pilot in the state of New Jersey, and customization of the General Service Administration’s platform for digital identity verification for the UI program in the State of Arkansas.”

For more information on the UI modernization plans, the agency encouraged stakeholders to visit its reference website or contact their regional office.

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