Lack of Y2K progress threatens Labor benefits programs

The Labor Department's benefits programs are at risk because resource problems may hinder the department's efforts to fix computers for the Year 2000 problem, the inspector general said today.

Testifying before the House appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Charles Masten said Labor's Year 2000 activities "have been limited by resource constraints."

According to Masten, Labor has not made significant progress since its February report to the Office of Management and Budget, which identified only 13 of its 61 mission-critical systems as Year 2000-compliant, and he was concerned about the potential impact the inadequate progress may have on the department's ability to provide services beyond 1999.

"I am especially concerned about [Labor] benefit payment systems for job corps students and injured coal miners, longshore and harbor workers and federal employees and their families," Masten said.

Today's hearing focused on several agencies and their Year 2000 conversion work, including HHS, the Social Security Administration and the Education Department. Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.), the subcommittee chariman, said the problems at Labor were the worst of any agency testifying today.

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