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Setting up Ohio Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will cost taxpayers close to $10 million

Amanda Anthony
UberEats
Contract amendment
Kimberly Hall
Posted at 4:20 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 12:16:39-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was created by Congress in March to help workers who don't usually qualify for unemployment. To install, implement and maintain the new system, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services signed a contract for close to $10 million taxpayer dollars.

Watch Sarah Buduson's investigative report on News 5 at 5 p.m.

A sudden change

"It was basically overnight, things just completely changed," said Amanda Anthony.

The Westlake resident, 33, was driving for UberEats when coronavirus caused customers to disappear in mid-March.

"Normally, I would be getting non-stop dings. I got none," she said.

On March 10, Amanda Anthony's income suddenly evaporated before her eyes.

UberEats
The UberEats jobs just weren't showing up for Amanda, and she found herself without income.

Even more troubling, more than 10 weeks later, she has yet to receive any help from Ohio.

First, she had to wait two months for the state to set up its PUA system.

Apply for PUA here: OH Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

More than two weeks after applying, she has yet to receive benefits from the state.

"I’m just putting everything on credit cards and hoping for the best," she said.

Contract costs

Due to its antiquated mainframe computer system, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services hired a vendor to create a new cloud-based system to distribute PUA.

News5 obtained a copy of the contract the state signed with Deloitte Consulting April 13. Deloitte also set up PUA systems for New Mexico, Illinois and Colorado.

We found it cost the state $5,706,00 to install and implement the new system.

The contract says "Hypercare," maintenance and operations will cost the $557,000 per month which will total $3,903,000 for the term of the deal.

The state also signed an amendment adding another $50,000 for services on April 22.

Contract amendment
The section of the contract amendment dealing with costs of the new PUA program.

The majority of the money will be used to pay for personnel.

The Deloitte employee overseeing the system will earn $250 per hour for 26 weeks, or $260,000.

The contract also states ODJFS will pay 150 full-time agents $59 per hour for 26 weeks which totals $9,204,000.

"I think, in general, this looks like an an average sort of contract," said Michele Evermore, an unemployment insurance expert and senior policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project. She said while Ohio was one of the slowest states to implement PUA, it did move quickly to select a vendor.

"While it seems like glacial movement on the state’s behalf to not get benefits out for a couple of months, I mean, they set up a brand new system," she said.

PUA problems

"I’m surprised they spent that much money on a system that doesn’t really seem to work," said Anthony.

READ MORE HERE: PUA problems plague OH workers

When it began accepting applications May 11, 42 states were already processing payments.

Some workers were mistakenly blocked from applying for PUA.

Infogram

Then, last week, Deloitte announced a data leak exposed applicants' personal information.

"On top of the stress, I’m now worried about that," said Anthony.

Ready to go

"It’s heartbreaking and very frustrating that our system isn’t able to deliver for every person that needs help," said Kimberly Hall, Director, Ohio Jobs and Family Services.

She apologized to workers who are stilling waiting during a Zoom conference call Thursday morning.

Hall also spent four hours Wednesday being grilled about problems with the PUA system and other unemployment issues by members of the OH Ways & Means committee.

Kimberly Hall
Kimberly Hall, the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, speaking the governor's news conference on April 8.

Hall said Ohio considered three companies to set up the state's PUA system. She said Deloitte was selected because the company already had a system that would not "burden" the state's antiquated technology.

"Needing to rapidly get something out the door, we elected to go with that vendor," she said.

'Work just isn't there'

"It’s just scary waiting this long," she said.

Anthony said she still has cash in her bank account, but it won't last much longer, especially without any income.

Out of curiosity, Anthony opened her UberEats app Tuesday night.

She said over five hours, there were just a few orders.

"It's not enough to make a living on," she said. "The work just isn't there anymore."

Despite problems, as of Thursday morning, Hall said ODJFS has paid about 120,000 workers approximately $744 million in PUA payments.

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