Consultant sets timeline for Kan. unemployment insurance upgrade
By NOAH TABORDA
TOPEKA — The company brought in
to direct modernization of the beleaguered Kansas unemployment insurance
system is plotting an ambitious course with a timeline of 26 months.
Tata Consultancy Services, an
information technology consulting company, was brought on to address a
mainframe relied upon by the Department of Labor since the 1980s. A
flood of unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent
fraudulent claims pushed the system to the limit, prompting legislators
to seek immediate updates.
Jai Siani, the unemployment
insurance program executive for TCS, laid out the timeline, a one-phase
approach, to the Unemployment Compensation, Modernization and
Improvement Council on Tuesday.
Some members of the panel were skeptical.
“I started doing this when you
still had to mail and fax stuff and faxing was rare, so I’ve seen all
these systems come up and I’ve yet to see one that comes up in 26
months,” said Jeff Oswald, a member of the council. “Have you met that
“We have not done any of the
previous implementations in 26 months, but based on what we have learned
from those implementations and the specific understanding that we had
for Kansas, we are confident 26 months is what it will take for us,”
The IT consultant and services
company contracted has worked with several other states — Maine,
Massachusetts, Mississippi, Mississippi, New York and Wyoming — to
John Griffin, director of Americas
business development for TCS, noted Wyoming had a turnaround time of 31
months. Griffin told the council its input would be key in representing
not only what the state is looking for but what the people of Kansas
“Big projects fail because of a
lack of visibility and a lack of governance,” Griffin said. “This
council is part of that governance process, so that there’s a regular
routine, reporting on schedule on risks and on issues.”
TCS’s parent company and
headquarters are in Mumbai, which raised questions from legislators like
Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, about who would be working on the project.
Griffin assured legislators the intent was to keep work on the project
within the country.
Other legislators had questions about the specifics of the forthcoming system.
“I think one of the highest
priorities is that this platform has job search capabilities and resumes
and tracking individuals as far as job search requirements,” Tarwater
Tarwater’s desire falls in line with a recent legislative effort to push Kansans back into the workforce. The veto override of House Bill 2448
will require people ages 18 to 49 without a disability to enroll in a
job training program to qualify for federal food assistance.
“In (Mississippi, Maine, Missouri,
and Wyoming) we do interface with the workforce system,” Griffin said.
“We usually interface with the job search to be able to, so we can bring
some of that data together to view it. But it’s not natively part of
our system currently.”