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Editorial: Gov. needs answers on jobless computer woes

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After installing a $48 million computer system, the Department of Workforce Solutions has seen:

• The average wait time to connect to the agency’s unemployment call center more than double, from a 15-minute average to 36 minutes.

• The average percentage of eligible claims processed within 21 days of filing drop from 72 percent to 64 percent.

Yet the new system was supposed to reduce the load on the jobless call center, streamline benefit payments and improve detection of improper claims for 20,000-some unemployed New Mexicans and more than 45,000 employers around the state. Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe and chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, says “the system was supposed to lead to their response times going down.”

Barring a turnaround, this $48 million seems to be going down the same decade-old drain as tens of millions in state computer investments before it.

Remember SHARE? The Department of Finance and Administration still can’t properly reconcile the state’s books seven years after that $30 million-plus anchor went online and dragged bookkeeping down.

Workforce Solutions spokeswoman Joy Forehand says response times are improving and delays could be in part because more information is required on the front end, ultimately saving time on the back end.

But making up lost ground almost a year after the fact wasn’t how this computer investment was sold to the public or the Legislature. The new system was supposed to “meet the high standards and needs of both businesses and job seekers.”

Then again, these are state of New Mexico computer investment standards we’re talking about.

Gov. Susana Martinez should demand an explanation for this $48 million move backward and share it with taxpayers, who are picking up the tab.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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