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Merry Christmas! No food stamps for you!

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2017

* AP

Problems with a state computer system have prevented tens of thousands of Illinois households from receiving federal food stamp benefits since the new system’s latest phase got underway.

The Illinois Department of Human Services began rolling out a new computer system in 2013 to administer entitlement benefits, including food stamps. The second phase of that process began in late October.

State officials tell The Chicago Tribune that problems with the computer system caused more than 40,000 households to lose their food stamp benefits during November. More than 30,000 of those households remain without those benefits.

This is just… I mean… Oh, never mind. What a mess.

* Tribune

Officials with the Department of Human Services and representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union — which represents more than 2,400 human services caseworkers in Illinois — disagree on what’s causing the problems. But both sides say they hope to restore benefits as soon as possible for those who are eligible. […]

A certain number of SNAP recipients routinely lose their benefits each month because of missed deadlines or ineligibility, but that number ballooned after the second phase of the new system was rolled out. With the old system, the state canceled some 14,000 to 15,000 cases per month, said Diane Grigsby-Jackson, director of the division of family and community services for the Department of Human Services.

On Nov. 15, under the new system, the state canceled 41,000 cases, 12,000 of which have since been reinstated, she said.

Some caseworkers on the front lines say they’re overwhelmed and undertrained.

“Everybody’s learning the new system, but the problem is we’re learning on the backs of poor people. And we’re taking their benefits away during the worst possible season,” said Vonceil Metts, a human services casework manager at a local DHS office in West Garfield Park.

…Adding… Pritzker campaign…

As the holiday season begins, tens of thousands of Illinois working families are not receiving federal food stamp benefits due to a botched program rollout by Bruce Rauner’s Department of Human Services.

In late October, the department began rolling out a new computer system to administer benefits, causing more than 40,000 households to lose access to the program. Over a month after the rollout and with the holidays quickly approaching, more than 30,000 families still had not received their benefits as of last week.

“Bruce Rauner’s mismanagement and neglect is once again devastating Illinois families as tens of thousands are now going without SNAP benefits this holiday season,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “From DCFS, to Veterans Affairs and now Human Services, Bruce Rauner has proven entirely incapable of running the government of Illinois.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

35 Comments
  1. - Moe Berg - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:02 am:

    Rauner’s 11th Accomplishment: 10,000 people regained food stamp access


  2. - Raccoon Mario - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:05 am:

    ERP doesn’t work, the food stamp program doesn’t work, anyone see a pattern here?


  3. - Perrid - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    “…benefits are automatically cut off after the 15th for cases that don’t meet that deadline. Because cases had to be canceled manually in the old system, applicants had more of a grace period, she said.” Kinda surprised they admit that. I can just see conservatives frothing in rage at the idea of taxpayer dollars going to feed someone who has not yet “proven” they are “worthy” of that aid just because DHS doesn’t have staff.

    Generally speaking, any transition is hard, but they’ve been pushing back the IES rollout for years now. I would have hoped for better.


  4. - What's in a name? - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    Anyone know who’s in charge?


  5. - PJ - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:10 am:

    DHS is run by either by malevolent geniuses or people too stupid to exist. Never in my life have I dealt with a more poorly managed organization, top to bottom.

    If the DMV can be reformed from a hellscape into a functioning organization, so can DHS. Maybe the director should be elected. I’m grasping at straws here.


  6. - Perrid - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:10 am:

    @ Raccoon Mario, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Some files didn’t transition from the old system to the new; that’s bad, and thousands of people lost benefits, but it seems like a one time problem. Transition problems don’t mean the new system isn’t working.


  7. - Texas Red - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:11 am:

    Of course the tendency will be to blame Rauner; however this is perhaps also an example of the pervasive inefficiency of government run programs be they state or federal.


  8. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    Curious, “computer problems” never caused Rauner’s IT pinstripe patronage army to miss a paycheck. Those cats are well-fed and fat.

    Heck, Munger raided GRF to pay them, even when their dedicated account was flush.

    That wasn’t a mistake, that was on purpose.


  9. - PJ - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:16 am:

    ===it seems like a one time problem===

    Nope. As someone who deals directly with their screwups, I can tell you they’ve been doing this for years. Cases get randomly and mistakenly canceled for no reason and without notice, files get lost, case workers lie. It’s to Illinois state agencies what Bruce Rauner is to governors, which … probably not a coincidence.


  10. - Robert the 1st - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    Can’t wait for single-payer healthcare…


  11. - cdog - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    Removing emotion and politics from this, the new system automates case-cancelling.

    Restated, if a recipient doesn’t redetermine on time, is popped from database match with unreported income, or other disqualifying status, they might not be eligible anymore.

    Remember, numbers don’t lie. Automation of the cancelling process may save taxpayers a lot of money by preventing abuse.


  12. - Anon221 - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:20 am:

    I wonder how many of the same households also got the 6 page letter informing them their health insurance was being changed (see hearing from yesterday headed by Re. Greg Harris concerning the Medicaid contracts), or those families facing losing CHIP insurance for their children. I guess those are the things that “just happen” when you’re not in charge. /S


  13. - Mr.Black - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:27 am:

    Many of the recipients did in fact submit the applications on time, but the new system is incredibly slow.


  14. - cdog - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:27 am:

    Good news is bls.gov is reporting that black unemployment has hit historic lows.

    This is true with other demographics, too.

    More people working– less snap and tanf needed.

    Relevant question. Is Chicago, and Illinois, an outlier on this improving economic trend too?


  15. - CivicWhitaker - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    I’m not going to pretend that work on these systems is easy. However, there’s plenty of work being done to help make government work better for people.

    This video is a bit old (from 2014) but it gives a good example of work being done specifically around SNAP benefits.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yViYA8IG36U

    You can see the demo of the GetCalFresh app that he’s talking about here: https://demo.getcalfresh.org/

    (Full disclosure: I work for CfA)

    I think the thing that frustrates me personally is that these are solvable problems. Yes, it’s going to take a lot of work but other states like Massachusetts have built out entire digital service teams to help tackle exactly these kinds of problems.

    Happy to talk with anyone who’d like to learn more


  16. - Al - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    This happens when you are more interesting in paying your pinstripe patronage contractual army, rather than monitoring and providing timely guidance to the development of work product.


  17. - PJ - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:31 am:

    ===Automation of the cancelling process may save taxpayers a lot of money by preventing abuse===

    Actually what’s it done is cancel tens of thousands of eligible, extremely needy people, 12,000 of whom have already had to be manually put back on by overworked state employees.

    The difference between us is evidently that you’d rather cancel 1,000 cases of families who desperately need food as long as you also get some who shouldn’t have it. Sweet priorities.


  18. - Fixer - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:33 am:

    Perrid, I’d be willing to buy into your “one time thing” statement were it not for the fact that the computer system itself is plagued with problems, from documents from the scanning system not showing up on cases to not being able to process cases properly due to constant errors. Yes, there are some features of it that will be very useful ongoing if or when the major structures in it work properly.

    They knew this system wasn’t ready yet. Anyone that went to the trainings for it told them as much. I feel for the SNaP recipients that are not getting the help they need right now. It’s not right and it’s not fair to them. People deserve better than this.


  19. - Anon221 - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    Just so you know…

    https://www.thepacker.com/article/usda-clears-arizona-test-snap-fraud-prevention-improvement

    Question to the Post- If Illinois were granted such a waiver, and the Illinois program had mistakeningly kicked someone off of SNAP more than 2 times in a 12 month period, does that person have to reapply for a new card each time?


  20. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 10:54 am:

    Ah they will be just fine. I know this because I have been told repeatedly that these recipients are all not-actually-poor people and illegal immigrants who are gaming the system, driving Cadillacs and buying lobster and energy drinks with their SNAP cards. /s


  21. - Swift - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:00 am:

    So 15k are normally cancelled, but in November, with the new system, 40k were initially cancelled and 12k reinstated, still leaving 28k cancelled. What does this mean? Does it mean in the past DHS has been paying out to people who aren’t entitled to benefits, meaning the new system is working, or were the cancellations done in error? Team Rauner really needs to work on messaging, given their track record the lack of clarity makes me read the DHS statements as proof of a screw-up and cancelled properly due benefits. I could be totally wrong and the cancellations are valid, but Team Rauner has already lost the messaging war.


  22. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:01 am:

    CDog, you’re somehow missing the point that people are being dropped when they should not be.

    Curious, as that’s the express point of the post.The word “problems” should have tipped you off.

    Are you one of those “mentally disadvantaged” you wrote about last week?


  23. - Fixer - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    Swift, you’re correct in your assessment. These are people who should not have been dropped.


  24. - Aware Mom - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    The system wasn’t properly vetted. The ABE side of the system is supposed to be set up for user ease, but nearly all adults with developmental disabilities can’t log in. Why? DHS, in its infinite wisdom, won’t let you into the system unless you can be identified by Experian. Since most adults with developmental disabilities have never worked or taken out a loan, they don’t have a credit history and are invisible to the state. This is sheer ableism. Disgraceful.


  25. - anon - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:39 am:

    To put this in perspective there is just under 2,000,000 million SNAP recipients in Illinois. The 41K-15K=26K effected by to the transition. Minus the 12K already reinstated and this means 14K still effected by the transition. This is less than 1% of all SNAP recipients. I would love the issue to be 0 affected, but can’t get much smaller than less than 1%, let’s see what happens over the long term. Bigger issue is why do we have 15 percent of our population on SNAP and what can we do to raise their incomes so they don’t need SNAP anymore. Where’s the outrage on our poor economy driving this issue?


  26. - City Zen - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:42 am:

    So Phase 2 of a food management software system rollout begins in a cold weather month with a major holiday that revolves around food, with minimal time to address any bugs prior to the next major holiday that revolves around food. It’s like rolling out a new HR system one month before open enrollment.


  27. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 11:49 am:

    Hope that everyone who qualifies and should be receiving these benefits…do. Soon.


  28. - Chicago_Downstater - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 12:22 pm:

    I think the consultants that setup this system at great expense to the tax payer deserve far more ire than the DHS workers that are working to cover these glitches and design flaws.


  29. - kitty - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 2:06 pm:

    ABE and the Integrated Eligibility System (IES) are not working as advertised or intended save for profitability to its vendor. IDHS management continues to make excuses to justify these costly and ineffective systems that have never worked as promised. The IES is not user friendly for casework staff and the requirement to adopt a “task based” casework model is proving to be an unmitigated disaster for providing Medicaid to nursing home and assisted living residents. IES was likely programed to automatically cancel SNAP cases not redetermined by a given deadline and many suspect its simply a matter of time before this applies to Medicaid cases. This could result in persons either not receiving or being subject to delays in receiving vital medication or care.


  30. - James - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 3:46 pm:

    The Governor is too busy trying to legislate, which is not his job. His primary job is to manage his agencies.


  31. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 3:48 pm:

    ==Are you one of those “mentally disadvantaged” you wrote about last week?==

    Really dude, even for you, that’s a bit much.


  32. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 4:00 pm:

    Guy, not my phrase, I just borrowed it. Your hall-monitoring is duly noted and is given all the weight it deserves.

    Didn’t you just call some people a “den of kooks” because you don’t like them? Check the log in your own eye, miss manners.


  33. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 4:13 pm:

    Yes Sling. I referred to Personal PAC as a den of kooks. Specifically for the comments they made in this very post above.

    Hall monitoring? Maybe a reminder to check yourself a little bit. Your little bon mot, borrowed or original, is a personal remark toward another person. I show restraint every time I address you in a post. And usually ignore most.
    You’re an enigma to me. So thoughtful and bright at times, and so petty and mean-spirited at other times. That comment was like how Illinois governs.


  34. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 4:39 pm:

    LOL, guy, so you meant “den of kooks” in the nice, friendly, restrained way?

    Self-awareness ain’t your thing.


  35. - Blue dog dem - Tuesday, Dec 19, 17 @ 4:44 pm:

    A Guy. Dont feel bad until Word refers to you as a haystack or something like that.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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