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University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Tag: Computer systems

SNAP Eligibility System – Illinois

Food stamp benefits disrupted for thousands as state launches new eligibility system, By Greg Trotter, December 18, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Tens of thousands of Illinois households aren’t receiving federal food stamp benefits leading up to the holidays because of problems with a state computer system. In 2013, the state’s Department of Human Services began rolling out a new computer system to administer entitlement benefits, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, more commonly known as SNAP or food stamps…”

Child Welfare System – Michigan

Problems continue for Michigan’s child welfare database, By Justin A. Hinkley, Lansing State Journal: “The state’s troubled child welfare database lacked the necessary controls ‘to ensure that all cases are actively managed and all children and families receive necessary services,’ auditors reported Tuesday.  As of March 1, auditors had found 208 cases without a worker assigned to them. Those cases, a fraction of nearly 70,000 in the system, were hangovers from the state’s previous software database and should have been closed out, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services said in its preliminary response contained in Tuesday’s report…”

State Benefit Program Eligibility Checks

What happens when states go hunting for welfare fraud, By Jen Fifield, May 24, 2017, Stateline: “By the time Illinois decided to crack down on Medicaid fraud in 2012, state officials knew that many people enrolled in the program probably weren’t eligible. For years, caseworkers hadn’t had the time or resources to check. To catch up, the state hired a private contractor to identify people who might not be eligible for the low-income health program and to make recommendations for whose benefits should be canceled. Within about a year, Illinois had canceled benefits for nearly 150,000 people whose eligibility could not be verified — and saved an estimated $70 million…”

Public-Assistance Computer System – Rhode Island

69-page report details failings of public-assistance computer system, By Katherine Gregg, October 15, 2016, Providence Journal: “The hours-long wait times inside Rhode Island’s welfare offices, the inability to get through on phone lines and the deep ‘customer frustration’ with the troubled launch of the state’s new $364-million computer system are documented in a report the Raimondo administration provided to a federal agency on Friday.  The report spells out in detail, over 69 data-filled pages, the real-life problems faced in recent weeks by thousands of Rhode Islanders who rely on public-assistance benefits to buy food and pay for other basics, including one-hour, 40-minute wait times on the phone, and 2½-hour waits to talk to someone in person…”

Child Care Subsidies – Massachusetts

Computer woes delay child-care subsidies, By Stephanie Ebbert, November 20, 2015, Boston Globe: “About 1,600 low-income children remain stuck on a waiting list for subsidized child care because a computer system built by the state government has been beset by problems for four months.  The Department of Early Education and Care launched the new, $5.05-million system on July 1, despite concerns about its readiness raised by the child-care providers who rely on it to get paid…”

SNAP System – Massachusetts

SNAP system overhaul leads to fewer receiving food stamps, Western Mass. pantries see surge in need, By Laura Newberry, February 19, 2015, MassLive: “When the state rolled out its new Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program case management system in Oct. 2014, it was touted as a way to match caseworkers with clients more quickly, a crucial step in getting food stamps into the hands of those who need them most. But since then, the state has reported a sharp decline in the number of those receiving stamps through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)  Advocates say the drop in recipients isn’t a result of a rebounding economy, but rather a faulty system that’s causing bureaucratic backlog…”

State Medicaid Programs – New Jersey, Ohio

  • N. J. Medicaid fiasco: Thousands stranded without coverage, no fix in sight, By Kathleen O’ Brien, December 23, 2014, Star-Ledger: “The doctor was perfectly clear after examining Aurora Blackwell’s son this fall: The boy needed to get to an emergency room for his worsening digestive problems. Instead, Blackwell took the 4-year-old home and treated him herself — first with prune juice, then suppositories. Why would the devoted young mother of two ignore her pediatrician’s advice? Because the Burlington County woman knew that despite 10 months of phone calls, emails and letters, her family still lacked health insurance. ‘I feel helpless,’ she’d written two months earlier in a plea to Gov. Chris Christie. ‘How much longer do we have to wait?’ The meltdown of the federal government’s website tied to the Affordable Care Act has been well documented. But in New Jersey, something far worse was happening as the state expanded Medicaid access under Obamacare, an NJ Advance Media investigation has found…”
  • Medicaid extension again on Kasich agenda, By Catherine Candisky, December 23, 2014, Columbus Dispatch: “Nearly one year after Ohio expanded Medicaid coverage for poor adults, Gov. John Kasich again faces uncertainty as he seeks approval from the Republican-led legislature to extend new eligibility guidelines for two more years. The governor and other supporters say lives are at stake. As of October, more than 430,000 poor Ohioans had gained health coverage under the expansion paid through federal funding available through the Affordable Care Act…”

Medicaid Programs – Oregon, California

  • Oregon to use Kentucky Medicaid system, By Saerom Yoo, December 9, 2014, Statesman Journal: “The Oregon Health Authority will import Kentucky’s online Medicaid enrollment system, marking the second phase of the state’s transition in the face of last year’s Cover Oregon technology mess. OHA Medicaid Director Judy Mohr Peterson made the announcement to legislators in the Capitol on Monday, saying the Kentucky exchange system has been successful, that it has the kind of functionality Oregon needs and that the state has a similar Medicaid population to Oregon…”
  • California managed-care pilot program meets resistance, By Anna Gorman, December 6, 2014, Washington Post: “California’s initial efforts to move almost 500,000 low-income seniors and disabled people automatically into managed care has been rife with problems in its first six months, leading to widespread confusion, frustration and resistance. Many beneficiaries have received stacks of paperwork they don’t understand. Some have been mistakenly shifted to the new insurance coverage or are unaware they were enrolled. And a third of those targeted for enrollment through Nov. 1 opted out, indicating they will stick with their traditional coverage. Prompted by the Affordable Care Act, the federal government is trying to streamline services and cut costs for the 9 million Americans who are in both Medicare and Medicaid. A dozen states have received grants to launch pilot projects, and five are enrolling participants — Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois and California…”

Unemployment Insurance System – Tennessee

Unemployment fix could take two years, By Chas Sisk, April 24, 2014, The Tennessean: “Although state officials have known about problems in the state’s unemployment insurance program for more than a year, outside observers say it could take them at least two more to straighten things out. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development says it already has begun to address mistakes raised in an audit of the program, some of them coming up for the second time…”

State Unemployment Systems – Florida, Massachusetts

  • Unemployment without benefits, By Matt Dixon, February 17, 2014, Florida Times-Union: “When lawmakers passed a $63 million ‘modernization’ of the state’s unemployment compensation system in 2011, proponents promised it would ‘improve the claims, benefits and appeals process.’ So far, the opposite has been true. Instead of streamlining the system, the changes have created a technological mess that has blocked or delayed badly needed benefits to more than 100,000 Floridians who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The modernization project, dubbed ‘Project CONNECT,’ was passed along partisan lines, with Democrats and some legal groups in opposition. So far, many of their fears have been realized, according to a Times-Union investigation…”
  • Jobless aid still eluding some in Mass., By Megan Woolhouse, February 18, 2014, Boston Globe: “Devastated by the layoff last year from her job of 15 years, Heidi Thompson-Totman found new hope when she was approved for a federally funded program that would provide her with up to about a year of unemployment benefits while she retrained to work as a graphic designer. Borrowing $2,000 to cover tuition and enrolling at North Shore Community College last fall, Thompson-Totman looked forward to completing her associate’s degree and getting back to work — until her weekly benefit of about $300 stopped without explanation two months ago. Now, she and her husband, barely getting by, are planning to sell their Boxford home so they can pay college tuition for their two children. ‘We are going downhill fast,’ said Thompson-Totman, 47. ‘We can’t make our bills.’ Thompson-Totman is among many jobless Massachusetts residents enrolled in or approved for retraining programs who had benefits mistakenly cut off or delayed because of another defect in the new $46 million computer system for managing unemployment claims…”

State Benefit Systems

Faulty websites confront needy in search of aid, By Frances Robles, January 7, 2014, New York Times: “Three months after the disastrous rollout of a new $63 million website for unemployment claims, Florida is hiring hundreds of employees to deal with technical problems that left tens of thousands of people without their checks while penalties mount against the vendor who set up the site. Efforts at modernizing the systems for unemployment compensation in California, Massachusetts and Nevada have also largely backfired in recent months, causing enormous cost overruns and delays. While the nation’s attention was focused on the troubled rollout of the federal health care site under the Affordable Care Act, the problems with the unemployment sites have pointed to something much broader: how a lack of funding in many states and a shortage of information technology specialists in public service jobs routinely lead to higher costs, botched systems and infuriating technical problems that fall hardest on the poor, the jobless and the neediest…”

ACA Implementation

  • Traffic surges, glitches mark exchanges’ debut, By Jayne O’Donnell and Kelly Kennedy, October 2, 2013, USA Today: “The opening of state- and federal-run insurance marketplaces Tuesday saw a combination of huge interest and balky technology that led to a series of glitches, delays and even crashes that marred the first hours of the centerpiece of President Obama’s health law. Some of the delays were due to high volume. About 2.8 million people visited the federal website since midnight, said Marilyn Tavenner, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The site is handling exchanges for 34 states that defaulted to the federal government for at least the first year…”
  • Health Exchanges Open for Business—With Glitches, By Christopher Weaver, Timothy W. Martin and Louise Radnofsky, October 1, 2013, Wall Street Journal: “The health-insurance marketplaces at the center of President Barack Obama’s health law saw a surge of consumer interest Tuesday that surprised even many of the law’s backers…Officials in New York state, which is running its own insurance site, said an unanticipated surge of visitors in the first hours left the marketplace only partially functional. California said its website fielded five million page views by 3 p.m. local time…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – North Carolina

NC FAST leaves families on food stamps hungry; may not be ready to handle Medicaid claims, By Gregory Phillips, September 15, 2013, Fayetteville Observer: “When Robin Mukdahahn applied for government food stamps, she was told to check back if she hadn’t heard anything within 10 business days. So she did. Her husband had just left the Army, money was tight and they needed the help. “Every time I called, they pulled my case up and said it was still pending,” she said. After 38 days of calling the Cumberland County Department of Social Services, the benefits came through, but even then, the amounts were wrong…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – North Carolina

  • Food stamp delay causes increase in food pantry visits, By Molly Parker, September 9, 2013, Star News: “There’s been an uptick in people seeking food at area pantries because of statewide delays in food stamp benefit delivery, say those who feed the hungry locally. The delays have been caused by glitches in the Department of Health and Human Services’ implementation of a new statewide computer system, called NC FAST. It’s meant to streamline delivery of services but has taken off in fits and starts…”
  • DSS workers continue to offer food bank referrals, By Meghann Evans, September 5, 2013, Winston-Salem Journal: “Forsyth County Department of Social Services workers have referred more than 300 families to local food banks over the past month and are continuing to provide the referrals as they catch up with the case backlog from the NC FAST system…”

Electronic Benefits Payment System – North Carolina

NC’s online food assistance program produces long waits, frustration, By Thomas Goldsmith and Annalise Frank, August 5, 2013, News & Observer: “The state’s new electronic benefits payment system, aimed at greater efficiency, instead has Wake County food aid recipients waiting as long as eight or nine weeks for funds to arrive to put food on their tables. Longtime Southeast Raleigh activist Octavia Rainey told Wake County commissioners Monday that the problems have caused dozens of people to show up at her house to ask for help in getting food from churches, food banks and other sources. Known as NC FAST, the $48.2 million system was supposed to provide a new way to pay into recipients’ electronic bank accounts, but has been beset in Wake by repeated glitches and slowdowns…”

Medicaid Computer Systems – North Carolina, New Hampshire

  • N.C.’s new Medicaid payment system a ‘nightmare,’ some providers say, By Lynn Bonner, July 21, 2013, Charlotte Observer: “State officials say the new Medicaid bill-paying system is working better than expected. But for the company trying to get kids wheelchairs, the dentist who hasn’t been paid in a month and the providers who wait days to get their calls for help returned, the system is a near disaster. The state Department of Health and Human Services warned providers to expect a few bumps after the new Medicaid billing system came online July 1. For many, the bumpy weeks have been worse than they imagined, and they have not been told when the frustration will end…”
  • New Medicaid computer system doesn’t end errors, By Nancy West, July 20, 2013, New Hampshire Union Leader: “Four months after the controversial $90 million Medicaid computer system finally began operating, some providers say they aren’t getting paid properly, while another said her office was being paid 10 times the expected amount on some claims. The Medicaid Management Information System has been frequently delayed since being contracted in 2005 to a firm now owned by Xerox. It is causing ongoing frustration, with no end in sight, according to Bruce Burns, Concord Hospital’s chief financial officer…”

Unemployment Claims System – Florida

State to finally replace ancient jobless-claims computer, By Jim Stratton, May 21, 2013, Orlando Sentinel: “In good news for the jobless and employers alike, the state’s 1970s-era computer that processes unemployment claims is finally getting replaced. The new system is coming this fall, five years after the computer almost ground to a halt. The $63 million network is expected to make online filing easier for jobless Floridians. Officials say it will give them ready access to their payment history and allow them to quickly determine whether a claim has been approved. It should ease the workload on employers — who pay for the state’s unemployment trust fund — and help the state reduce and recover overpayments. Officials with the Department of Economic Opportunity estimate it will cut program costs by $43 million a year…”

Public Assistance Reporting Information System

Computer matching system could limit safety net ‘double dipping’, By Pamela M. Prah, April 12, 2012, “States could cut costs by millions of dollars a year if they took full advantage of a computerized matching system that can determine whether people are getting welfare, food stamps and other public assistance in more than one state at a time. States that have used the system in recent years have collectively saved more some $400 million, according to federal figures. But here’s the rub. The arrangement is still largely voluntary. The process, called Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS), is a set of computer matches that relies on Social Security numbers and other personal data. It allows states to see if individuals on their rolls for Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, childcare benefits or workers’ compensation are also on the rolls in another state…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Food stamp program under fire, By Pamela M. Prah, March 23, 2012, “The odds of winning one of Michigan’s high-stakes lottery games are 1 in 10,000, but the probability of two people hitting million-dollar jackpots and still be collecting food stamps has to be even more remote. That is exactly what happened in Michigan, stoking a nationwide debate over whether the program is becoming an out-of-control entitlement. A lottery winner ‘can certainly afford his own food, and should not be able to get more money from hard-working taxpayers after his big pay out,’ says Michigan state Representative Dave Agema, who has introduced proposals aimed at ensuring lottery winners aren’t on the public dole. ‘Michigan’s taxpayers have an absolute right to know when their tax dollars are going to millionaires,’ he said. While these kinds of cases are seen as rare, the $75 billion spent last year on food stamps across the country is coming under more scrutiny, as Congress struggles to pare down the federal debt. With a record 45 million Americans relying on food stamps, states and Congress are taking a closer look at who should get help paying for groceries…”
  • Idaho bill would stagger food stamps, By Holly Beech, March 29, 2012, Idaho Press-Tribune: “Grocers are asking Health and Welfare to distribute food stamps – or SNAP benefits – over a number of days rather than just the first of the month. But for the second year in a row, a bill that would answer that request probably won’t make it to the governor’s desk.  It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars more to stagger issuance, said Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston. Lodge is holding the bill in committee after it glided through the House Friday, sponsored by Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa…”
  • State panel to review EBT cards, with eye toward proper usage, By Conor Berry, March 28, 2012, “The panel created to examine potential misuse and abuse of electronic benefit transfer cards – better known as EBT cards and formerly known as Food Stamps – is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Thursday in Boston. The session is the final meeting before the EBT Commission releases an April 1 report with recommendations on how to improve local enforcement of the federal program, which in Massachusetts is administered by the state Department of Transitional Assistance. The program, which is aimed at helping low-income households pay for food, is known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The federal Food Stamp program officially changed its name to SNAP in October 2008…”

Child Welfare Computer System – Oregon

Oregon’s $40 million child welfare computer upgrade has glitches, some serious, By Michelle Cole, March 20, 2012, The Oregonian: “Oregon child welfare managers have not had access to statewide performance data showing how quickly local offices are responding to abuse reports and other information. Foster parents have waited for payments. And caseworkers say they are spending time putting information into a computer that should be spent with families. A $40 million computer upgrade that went live in August, after being delayed nearly a year, has suffered all kinds of problems, though top agency managers stress that none of them has put children in danger. Dangerous or not, the Department of Human Services’ ‘OrKids’ project provides yet another example of government’s difficulties with large-scale technology projects…”