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04/02/2020
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WorkScoop

State unemployment systems are overwhelmed

State unemployment systems are struggling beneath an avalanche of applications for financial relief as many businesses remained closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. With 3.28 million new unemployment claims in the week ending March 21 — and <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/02/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html">another 6.6 million</a> reported today — as businesses nationwide shutter their operations, states’ unemployment eligibility systems are going through an unprecedented stress test. And many of them, built on decades-old technology, are now buckling under the increased traffic. Figures released Monday by Minnesota showed the state has received more than 239,000 applications for unemployment benefits since March 16, more than it received in all of 2019. Now, the state is asking people to file claims on certain days, depending on the final digit in their Social Security number. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Texas' IT agency told reporters that people should try accessing the state's unemployment website during non-peak hours: 1 to 6 a.m. Colin Wood reports.


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The 'no-code' platform behind New York's COVID-19 portal

New York City used a "no-code" platform to quickly stand up a new web portal on Monday that allows residents to self-report conditions related to the novel coronavirus, according to the vendor's chief executive. "There's no more army of engineers," said Gary Hoberman, the founder of Unqork, which worked with the New York Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to launch the city's new NYC COVID-19 Engagement Portal. Officials are using the website in an attempt to harvest information about where people are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic disease or have potentially come into contact with individuals who are ill. Unqork's platform, Hoberman said, gives clients the ability to design web applications quickly by configuring various data sets and widgets using a visual interface, rather than thickets of code. Along with the self-reporting site, the company also helped New York set up a meal-delivery service for food-insecure residents using taxi drivers, and a site to facilitate donations of much-needed medical equipment. Benjamin Freed has more.


Cities are too busy for new startup partnerships

Jay Nath, co-CEO of the San Francisco-based civic technology nonprofit CityInnovate, was one of many last week to offer his services to local governments dealing with the spread of the novel coronavirus, launching a website on which Nath hoped cities would post "challenges" related to COVID-19 that would be answered by CityInnovate's network of tech startups. But as Nath and his team quickly found out, some cities are spread too thin to even consider third-party solutions to resource shortages or technical assistance during the pandemic. Instead, Nath said, CityInnovate will shift to focusing on the needs of cities and counties that are recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, whenever those recoveries begin. Ryan Johnston reports.


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