70 RI state workers being laid off in reorganization

Job cuts tied to replacement of 30-year-old computer system

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The R.I. Department of Administration and Department of Human Services are issuing layoff notices to about 70 DHS employees Thursday as part of a department reorganization.

The layoffs will be further outlined by the two departments’ directors at a media briefing Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Department of Administration building in Providence, according to a news release.

The job cuts are a result of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project, the largest IT project in Rhode Island state history. The $364-million initiative is replacing a 30-year-old computer system that tracks state services, eligibility, and enrollment, and is redesigning its business process, officials say.

Dept. of Administration director Michael DiBiase said Thursday that DHS had made efforts to reorganize staff with “minimal impact to employees,” and said a majority of the employees being laid off will be able to bid into new jobs.

The new computer system will be launching on Sept. 12, and will make it “easier and more convenient for Rhode Islanders to apply for and track their business,” the news release said. It requires different staffing needs, according to Depena Affigne, director of the Department of Human Services.

Between 45 and 50 social workers could be shifted into jobs with the Department of Children, Youth and Families, working directly with children and families, she said.

Mike Raia, a spokesman for Gov. Gina Raimondo, said she “understands that this is a difficult day for the impacted employees.”

“She is optimistic that the majority of the DHS employees will have an opportunity to continue working with the state in other roles and is encouraged that DLT is prepared to work with affected employees to provide training and transition services throughout this process,” he continued, referring to the R.I. Department of Labor and Training.

“Rhode Island’s current eligibility and enrollment system was designed more than 30 years ago,” Raia said. “Moving from the old system to a modern, digital system will improve customer service and make it easier for Rhode Islanders to access vital health coverage and social services. A modern system requires different staffing needs from one that’s been in operation since the Reagan administration.”

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