The Oregon Employment Department has again chosen Fast Enterprises as the vendor to modernize its outdated unemployment benefits system. The move comes 11 years after the agency received almost $86 million in federal funds to upgrade its antiquated technology.

The agency first picked the Colorado company in September and planned to enter contract negotiations. Those plans were rolled back when a competing vendor protested Fast’s selection. The Employment Department did not name the protesting company, but the other finalist was Deloitte Consulting.

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Officials conducted virtual site visits with other states that had worked with the vendors. After further evaluation, they chose Fast once again. Contract negotiations can begin in one week, barring further protest.

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The Employment Department’s outdated technology has caused countless problems delivering unemployment benefits to Oregonians during the coronavirus pandemic. At one point, acting director David Gerstenfeld described the system as a “spiderweb of programs” built on innumerable lines of code in a decades-old programming language. Shaking that spider web too much, he said, had unintended consequences.

The system’s technological rigidity contributed to out-of-work Oregonians waiting weeks or months for relief during the worst of the recession. Those delays prompted a class action lawsuit.

Fast Enterprises has built unemployment systems for other states. It also performed major upgrades for the Oregon Department of Revenue and the DMV. The Oregonian reported that Fast’s unemployment benefits systems ran into problems with fraud detection in Washington and Michigan.

The Employment Department has said that known issues can be addressed as Oregon’s new system is negotiated and designed.

The system’s long-awaited modernization won’t help Oregonians during this pandemic. The agency still expects the modernization program to take until 2025 to wrap up, though parts of it could begin earlier.

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