• September 28, 2020

Legendary Help: Keeping benefits running despite historic unemployment

During the height COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people globally were laid off or unable to return to work due to government orders. In order to accommodate these orders and keep people safe, state governments released new funding to provide financial relief to individuals who needed it. These government agencies had to process a record number of unemployment claims during a short period of time.

As the country’s jobless rate reached peaks not seen since the Great Depression, states saw record numbers of unemployment claims submitted in less than a month. This unprecedented demand meant that most state unemployment agencies struggled to accommodate the volume of claims, with citizens reporting outages and slow response times. During a time of heightened stress, this was the last thing that governments and citizens needed. The story in one Midwestern state, however, took on a decidedly different tone.

The Challenge

Before the pandemic hit, this Midwestern state and long-time Rocket customer would usually process around 3,000 unemployment claims a week. During the pandemic, they expanded benefit offerings to help more citizens, which resulted in a more than 11-fold increase over their typical load—around 41,00 claims in the first week. This change happened across the U.S., with many states’ mission-critical systems hobbled by similar rates of increase at around the same time.

Luckily, this state relied on an IBM Z mainframe to process their unemployment applications. The reliability and capability of the system allowed the state’s IT department to scale up its total capacity on demand instantly by nearly two-thirds without purchasing any new hardware or software. They were quickly able to manage the new influx of claims that needed immediate processing. 

IBM Z: The Key to Efficiency 

There’s a reason why banks, governments, and so many other businesses rely on IBM Z mainframes for their critical IT infrastructure: the newest IBM Z systems can process 2.5 billion transactions in a single day—the equivalent of 100 Cyber Mondays. “When it comes to raw power, nothing else even comes close,” says the unemployment agency’s head of IT. “So when we need it, the scalability is there.”

More importantly, when the state purchased its first mainframe system many decades ago, they continued to invest in the platform. They recently upgraded to the mainframe platform to the latest generation and modernized the underlying applications. Even through an unprecedented public health crisis, these upgrades allowed the system to process unemployment claims efficiently.

A Rocket Software customer since 2012, the agency uses Rocket Mainstar Catalog RecoveryPlus to ensure uninterrupted access to critical operational data. This system allows for safe, reliable backup and recovery. It also gives storage and systems administrators more control over the integrity and availability of ICF catalogs, the key control structures for data access. The agency also uses Rocket VSAM Quick Index to maximize its systems’ data availability without adding resources. This high-performance, low-overhead solution was key to adapting quickly during the pandemic.

Providing Essential Services

While many state governments were floundering, this Midwestern state was happy to have the IBM Z on their side to provide efficient service to citizens. During a historic pandemic, people are worried about their jobs and their financial situation. Resources need to be distributed as quickly as possible. 

Using Rocket’s tools alongside their IBM Z helps to ensure that the agency’s mainframe is always running reliably. It also helped them dynamically scale with rapid increases or decreases in demand. We were happy to be a key strategic partner in helping provide essential services to citizens.

Rocket Software

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Thousands of companies around the world depend on Rocket to solve their most challenging business problems by helping them run their critical infrastructure, business processes, and data, as well as extending the value of these assets to take advantage of cloud and mobile computing, advanced analytics, and other future innovations.

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