Evertec acknowledges fault for unemployment system breakdown
Applicants report obstacles after launch of Covid-19 jobless program
SAN JUAN – Transaction processor Evertec acknowledged it was at fault for breakdowns in the Puerto Rico Labor & Human Resources Department’s (PRLHD) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) system launched Tuesday.
PUA, a program enacted under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act (CARES Act), provides additional unemployment compensation to people who do not qualify for regular unemployment because they are self-employed, are contractors, homecare professionals, or have exhausted regular unemployment benefits amid the novel coronavirus epidemic. The program provides a supplemental weekly compensation of $600 for four months.
Many program applicants reportedly complained on social media that they could not complete the process, saying the system was incompatible with applications such as Chrome, Safari and Mozilla.
PRLHD has hired the company to run PUA and other agency digital programs.
“Certainly, there was a failure on my side or of the cloud I am using, which is a Microsoft cloud,” Evertec Vicepresident Carlos Ramírez said during a press conference. “A solution is being sought and it will be resolved.”
PRLHD Briseida Torres said that regardless of the system failure, unemployed people could also apply to the program via email, given that agency offices are not admitting visitors.
“I assure you that, one way or the other, people will be applying for PUA benefits, be it on this platform or other mechanism, or through the email we mentioned,” a defense Torres said during the afternoon press conference.
The agency reported that despite the glitches, it had processed 1,600 applications by midday.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Elmer Román attributed the system failure to a “problem of fragility in the government.”
“You have a system of government that has worked from emergency to emergency and it is given a short time period to develop technological platforms to address new problems like this case of the PUA, so that engineers develop a system when I know that many of these processes take at least two weeks of design, two weeks of development, three weeks of code development, and one or two weeks of implementation to do testing,” he said, adding that under such circumstances it is inevitable that the system will collapse.
“I think the work that the Labor Department has done in this case is commendable,” he added. “They developed a program for a volume of people expected in two weeks. This situation is understandable but we will work 24-7 until we solve this.”
During the past few years, Evertec, which services most of Puerto Rico’s automated-teller machines (ATMs) and point-of-sale (POS) terminals, has experienced several system breakdowns leading to people unable to use their debit cards to take cash out of ATMs and thousands of stores not being able to process debit transactions.