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Unemployment offices desperately seeking coders who know 60-year-old language

Of all the long-term impacts caused by COVID-19, the economic fallout from the ongoing pandemic may hit us the hardest. In the past three weeks alone, nearly 17 million people have filed for unemployment — a record-breaking number that already dwarfs the claims at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

That’s why Congress passed the CARES Act, which provides financial assistance for businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic. In addition, jobless workers will find relief in the form expanded unemployment benefits, which now sit at an additional $600 per week. Tap or click to see how much money you’re getting from the CARES Act.

These expanded benefits are big news for displaced workers. Unfortunately, some states’ old, buggy unemployment websites and applications are crashing from all the new traffic. To fix the issue, officials are calling in some veteran programmers who can troubleshoot these 60-year-old systems. Yes, seriously: They’re that old!

Programmers come out of retirement for one last job

An obsolete coding language found on more than half the country’s state computer systems is snarling critical unemployment applications. The language, called COBOL, is so outdated that high volumes of traffic are literally crashing the websites where people apply for the assistance.

In response to this unprecedented situation, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is asking for volunteer programmers who can work with COBOL, which was first introduced all the way back in 1959.

According to reports from CNBC, the request comes as more states grapple with issues caused by Cold War-era computer systems, which still house digital government infrastructure into the present day. Tap or click to see how other outdated government systems are putting national security at risk.

Governor Murphy hopes that volunteers may be able to reprogram the systems and modernize them to handle the insane volume of unemployment applications coming in each day. But the issues underscore a much more serious question: Why on earth are state governments still relying on such outdated equipment?

Beyond an annoyance: A serious risk for the unemployed

It’s not just delayed unemployment applications that have officials spooked. Since many displaced workers are so desperate for relief, workers in places like Florida were discovered to be physically lining up at government buildings for in-person unemployment applications.

This creates a great risk for coronavirus exposure, which spreads rapidly in the absence of social distancing. Officials are recommending physical distance between six and 25 feet among people, but the lines forming in Florida showed nothing of the sort. To fit into the buildings, many of these lines were tightly packed and spilling into the street.

If you’ve recently lost your job and are looking to claim unemployment benefits, please do not physically line up at your nearest office. Your health is more valuable than any weekly benefits, and putting yourself in harm’s way could cost you significantly more in the long term. Tap or click here to see our video guide to preventing COVID-19.

In the meantime, have patience and keep checking the website when it’s not peak hours. Most people will be submitting applications during the day, so it may be worth your while to check in late at night while most people are sleeping.

It may take some time, but you’ll be better off staying healthy. After all, when all this is over, you’ll need all your strength to be ready for your next job. Tap or click here to see which places are still hiring right now.

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