Help is on the way for beleaguered states facing a record number of jobless claims.
Google and Amazon Web Services are assisting Rhode Island, Kansas, Illinois and New York in processing the unprecedented number of unemployment claims prompted by the coronavirus crisis, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
As the has pandemic crippled the nation’s U.S. economy over the last two months, the number of workers who filed for unemployment benefits topped 30 million. The surge crippled state labor department websites, made phone lines unreachable and delayed unemployment payments as some dealt with obsolete computer systems.
Google, a division of Alphabet Inc., has been paired with Illinois, New York and others to update their state labor departments’ outdated computer systems, Todd Schroeder, the director of public-sector digital strategy for Google Cloud, told WSJ.
In addition, Google is using its cloud technology to upgrade the state agencies’ website capacities and automate the claim-filing process, he added. For example, Google established chatbots to answer routine questions and relieve staff.
Amazon’s technology has helped Rhode Island launch programs efficiently, state officials told the news service.
Rhode Island contracted with Amazon Web Services last month when its outdated computer systems and call center was besieged by the flood of applicants seeking unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
“Nobody who tried to certify in Rhode Island yesterday got a busy signal,” Scott Jensen, director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor department, told the news service after the new call system was launched last month.
About 75,000 Rhode Islanders filed claims on the phone the first day the system was implemented, an Amazon spokeswoman told WSJ.
Massachusetts’s online system went cloud-based three years ago and has avoided problems during the coronavirus pandemic while Kansas can field more calls compared with earlier in the crisis, thanks to systems recently put in place, according to state officials.
Thanks to Amazon’s help, Massachusetts was processing unemployment claims using Amazon’s cloud-based technology before the coronavirus pandemic. In 2017, the state migrated its system to the cloud, a Massachusetts Department of Labor spokesman told WSJ.
As a result, the Bay State’s online system has handled the sharp rise in claims volume that caused many state websites to freeze. Massachusetts processed more than 400,000 continuing claims on April 26, a Sunday. On average, it processes 20,000 claims on a typical Sunday, the spokesman said.