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…”

State Medicaid Programs – Kansas, Alabama

  • Disability group calling for federal investigation of Medicaid backlog, By Gabriella Dunn, July 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle: “A state disability organization is calling on the federal government to investigate the state’s handling of the application backlog for Medicaid. And this week, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit will begin an investigation into the backlog issue. The backlog was caused in part by the state switching its computer system that processes Medicaid applications about a year ago. And then in January, it switched the agency that oversees the applications, furthering the problem…”
  • Alabama’s Medicaid crisis: Four ways out, By Brian Lyman, July 15, 2016, Montgomery Advertiser: “Legislators don’t lack options to address a shortfall in the state’s Medicaid program.  But what they do lack — for now — is leadership in the Alabama House and a certainty about whether the will exists among legislators to reopen the General Fund budget…”

Common Application for Benefits – Massachusetts

Senate considers merging applications for MassHealth, food stamps, By Shira Schoenberg, May 26, 2016, MassLive.com: “At Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, director of operations Jo-Ann Silva-Winbush employs 19 counselors trained to help people apply for publicly subsidized health insurance. She hired two other counselors to help people apply for food stamps. A patient might wait a half hour to fill out a health insurance application, then another half hour to see another counselor to fill out a food stamp application.  Most of the information on the two applications is identical…”

Public Benefit Program Application and Eligibility

How 10 text messages can help families find out if they qualify for food stamps, By Max Lewontin, February 16, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “A new texting-based system aims to simplify the process of applying for food stamps in Alaska, where 27 percent of people who are eligible for a common federal program that helps people buy food they need aren’t getting the benefits because they haven’t applied, state officials say.  Using text-based prompts, the system lets families see whether they would qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in a series of 10 text messages, compared with a 28-page application that they would ordinary have to fill out…”

National School Lunch Program

Obama’s plan to give free lunches to millions more kids, By Roberto A. Ferdman, January 27, 2016, Washington Post: “The Obama administration will announce new plans Wednesday to launch a pilot program aimed at increasing poor children’s access to food through the National School Lunch Program. The pilot program will allow participating states to use Medicaid data to automatically certify students for free and reduced-price school lunches. Currently, families have to submit an application — a laborious process for parents and a costly one for schools — even when they have already proven that they are income-eligible through their participation in other government assistance programs…”

SNAP Asset Test – Maine

Maine plans to deny food stamps when applicant’s assets top $5,000, By Noel K. Gallagher and Joe Lawlor, September 16, 2015, Portland Press Herald: “The LePage administration on Wednesday announced a new ‘asset test’ that would make people ineligible for food stamps if they have more than $5,000 in the bank or own certain other items worth more than that amount, such as a snowmobile, boat, motorcycle or ATV. Critics of the rule change say the asset test creates a disincentive for low-income people to save money…”

SNAP Recipients and Benefit Renewal – New York City

Navigating a bureaucratic maze to renew food stamp benefits, By Winnie Hu, July 23, 2015, New York Times: “Three months after Delbert Shorter’s food stamps were cut off, he still does not know why. At first, he thought that his $180 a month allotment from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called SNAP or food stamps, was just late. But as one week turned into another, Mr. Shorter, 78, who lives in a fifth-floor walk-up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, grew more anxious, and hungrier. He stockpiled canned foods from a church food pantry, borrowed $60 from his home health aide and turned to a senior center to help get his food stamps back. ‘It’s very hard,’ he said. ‘If I knew it was really going to come, I would not have to worry about the next meal.’  Even as New York City has embarked on a campaign to increase access to food stamps in recent months, Mr. Shorter’s plight illustrates the barriers that remain for those who are already enrolled…”

Welfare Reform – Ohio

John Kasich’s new coordinated welfare approach to start with teens, young adults, By Robert Higgs, January 20, 2015, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Gov. John Kasich will propose new approaches for Ohio’s welfare programs in the budget he unveils Monday, targeting teens and young adults as part of an effort to intervene at an early age to stop poverty. The changes would require individual counties, which administer the assistance programs across the state, to designate a lead entity that will be responsible for coordinating help — assistance programs and job training efforts — and matching them to clients…”

Medicaid Expansion – Pennsylvania

Applying for Pa. Medicaid expansion? Wait in line, By Robert Calandra, January 16, 2015, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Almost seven weeks after the launch of Healthy Pennsylvania, the state’s Medicaid expansion plan, enrollment has been hampered by delays. Only an estimated 55,000 of 163,968 people who applied for the program by Jan. 1 have been enrolled in the Medicaid expansion, said Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services. She acknowledged the delays and said the agency was working to fix them…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance – Maine

With AG’s approval, LePage administration to start drug testing some welfare applicants, By Mario Moretto, January 14, 2015, Bangor Daily News: “After changes were made to protect the state from potential lawsuits, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is moving forward with a plan to drug test some welfare applicants as a condition of eligibility. The new rule, approved recently by Attorney General Janet Mills, requires applicants convicted of a drug felony in the past 20 years to take a written test designed to determine their risk for further drug use. If the applicant is determined to be at risk, he or she would be required to take a drug test…”

ACA Sign-up Period

Study: Selling health insurance at Christmas is bad idea, By Louise Radnofsky, June 26, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “Tax preparers and some other advocates have complained for a while that the health law’s insurance sign-up period is timed wrong. Now they have a paper in the journal Health Affairs to back them up. Asking lower-income people to contemplate buying coverage around the holiday season is a bad idea, because their decision-making capacity is stretched too thin, say two health policy professors. Crafters of the Affordable Care Act originally envisaged the open enrollment period as a fall activity that would coincide with the sign-up periods for Medicare and also the time when many Americans who get coverage through their jobs have to renew their elections. . .”

TANF Applicants – Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania denies 75 percent of welfare applicants, By Kate Giammarise, April 20, 2014, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “The vast majority of applicants for welfare benefits in Pennsylvania are rejected every month, data from the state show, and some blame a 2012 change in state law for sharply increasing the rate at which people are rejected from the program. About 75 percent or more applicants for cash assistance are turned down every month — leaving needy families without aid, advocates say. The change? Beginning in July 2012, state law required applicants to apply to at least three jobs a week — including while their application for assistance is still pending, which can be several weeks. Previously, an applicant would be required to fulfill the program’s work requirement after being approved for assistance, rather than prior to approval…”

Assistance Programs and Drug Testing

Some states still pushing drug testing for welfare, By Jake Grovum, March 6, 2014, Stateline: “From written tests designed to flag drug users to singling out people with recent drug convictions, state lawmakers across the country are pursuing novel strategies to deny welfare benefits to drug users without running afoul of a recent federal court ruling. In December, a federal judge in Florida struck down the state’s drug-test requirement. But almost half the states are considering drug-testing bills designed to withstand legal scrutiny. In Alabama, Indiana and Mississippi, such measures already have advanced by overwhelming majorities…”

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…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs – Minnesota

Drug tests of welfare recipients prove costly, By Chris Serres, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “A new state law designed to prevent drug users from receiving welfare benefits could end up costing taxpayers far more than it saves, while inadvertently denying assistance to poor families simply because they are unable to comply with its complex paperwork. Like a recent wave of drug-testing laws passed in other states, Minnesota’s legislation was touted as a way to encourage greater responsibility among welfare recipients while saving taxpayers money. But many county officials and advocacy groups say the reality is quite different: The law contains a bevy of costly local mandates and complicated rules that apply to just a tiny fraction of the 167,000 Minnesotans receiving welfare and other cash benefits…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs

Drug tests falter as way for states to deny public aid, By Steven Yaccino, October 25, 2013, New York Times: “With safety-net spending under review around the country, proposals to make welfare and unemployment checks contingent on drug testing have become a routine rallying cry in dozens of states. But the impact of drug-testing measures has been limited. Supporters say the tests are needed to protect welfare and unemployment compensation funds as the nation emerges from the recession. But their enactment has often been hampered by legal challenges and the expense of running the programs, which generally uncover relatively few drug users…”

TANF Application Process – Pennsylvania

As many as 8 of every 10 welfare applicants in 2013 denied by Pa., By Alfred Lubrano, September 16, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer: “The state of Pennsylvania has denied as many as eight of every 10 applications for cash welfare in 2013, a major increase over previous years, an Inquirer review of Department of Public Welfare figures shows. It’s a pattern being repeated in 17 other states. The increased rate of denials coincides with a change in state law. Before Pennsylvanians apply for welfare, they now must seek at least three jobs and document their efforts…”

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…”