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New Jersey needs COBOL coders

With many states finding that their unemployment systems are buckling under unprecedented demand, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy put out a call Saturday for programmers who know COBOL, the arcane programming language that New Jersey’s unemployment system runs on. During a daily briefing on the state's coronavirus response, Murphy said that in addition to reinforcing New Jersey’s shortage of supplies and facilities to manage the second-worst COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, his office is also unexpectedly prioritizing repairs to a decades-old computer system used to process unemployment claims. “Not only do we need health care workers but given the legacy systems we should add a page for cobalt computer skills because that’s what we’re dealing with in these legacies,” said Murphy, likely referring to the COBOL programming language. New Jersey, like everywhere else, has seen a surge in unemployment, with more than 206,000 new claims filed within the past week.   Colin Wood reports.

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Virtual city council meetings are boom or bust for local governments

Just as schools and workplaces have had to adjust to working remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, local elected officials, too, are figuring out how to hold meetings — and even votes — in virtual settings. For many city councils, it’s a learning opportunity and a chance to increase civic engagement, but some have struggled with the transition. But as more local elected officials figure out how to govern remotely, some see it as a lifeline for their constituents. "This is the only way that we will maximize the efficient use of the scarce resources available to save the people and businesses in our city from economic calamity," said Cherelle Parker, the majority leader of the Philadelphia City Council. Ryan Johnston has more.

Voatz "needs to address" bugs, mobile voting backer says

Voatz, the publisher of a mobile app that’s been used in several controversial pilot projects, needs to address its vulnerabilities before it can regain the confidence of election officials, according to a foundation that’s been working with state and local governments to allow some voters to cast ballots over mobile phones. “It needs to be assessed. It’s complex and very new, and in this space you need to err on the side of transparency," said Sheila Nix, the president of Tusk Philanthropies, which has been working with a handful of state and local election administrators since 2018 to allow military and overseas voters to send ballots back home with their handheld devices. Voatz, already unpopular with security experts who say internet-based voting is inherently risky, has been in damage-control mode in the wake of multiple third-party reports that found severe vulnerabilities in its software. The company's founder told StateScoop it is the subject of “frequent, ongoing audits by independent third parties,” the results of which will be released “in the coming months. Benjamin Freed reports.

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