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Pennsylvania’s new unemployment system launches Tuesday

PITTSBURGH — A new online system for filing for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania launched Tuesday.

While the new system is supposed to operate more smoothly, the Department of Labor and Industry said don’t be surprised if some issues still pop up -- especially in the first month.

For more than two hours Tuesday morning, statewide phone outages prevented the department from making and receiving phone calls, according to a tweet. Services were restored by 11:30 a.m. Officials said a systemwide problem from a third-party vendor was to blame.

“No one should have to go through this, ” one woman told Channel 11 about the issues she experienced. In fact, hundreds are frustrated over problems with Pennsylvania new unemployment website.

“Like everybody else I got bills to pay and a family to feed. I don’t want to depend on this unemployment system anymore,” Sonya Reagherd said. who was laid off from her bus driving job last year.

With the new system, Reagherd said she is experiencing problems, as are many others in the state. Users are reporting problems with registering, logging in and password issues.

“I was kind of excited because I thought it was going to be a lot easier, but it seems like it’s a problem,” she said. “I’ve been trying since probably every 20 minutes trying to get in with no luck.”

Pennsylvania’s new unemployment system promises to be faster, easier to use

Filing for unemployment under the new system will now be weekly instead of biweekly. Also, at the end of July, people will once again have to prove they are searching for work in the week before applying.

>>PREVIOUS STORY: Major changes coming to Pennsylvania unemployment

The new system is replacing the old benefits and appeals system, but not the system employers use to manage unemployment compensation tax issues. It’s the first major upgrade in more than four decades.

“we’re allowing individuals to spend less time filing for benefits and more time on what really matters, searching for a new job,” Department of Labor and Industry Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier said.

The old system went offline June 3. New claims can again be filed between Tuesday, once the new system launches, and June 12. Filers will be able to back-date their claim to May 30 if they were unemployed that week.

An online tracker will be available with the new system so that people can monitor ongoing technical work and improvements being made to it.

“Our servers are running a little slowly right now, but we anticipate that once that initial surge calms down we’ll be able to address those claims quickly,” Berrier said.

She said some glitches were expected with the rollout.

“This system has been tested more extensively than any system or it project I’ve ever seen across the course of my career in the Commonwealth,” she said.

And so far, she is happy with the system’s launch, pointing to the 62,000 claims successfully filed by early this afternoon.