Customers reporting issues with new benefits eligibility system

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One day after the launch of Rhode Island’s $364 million integrated benefits eligibility system, customers are reporting problems.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Office of Health and Human Services confirmed to Call 12 For Action that there is an “ongoing issue” with printing and distributing EBT cards.

Consumers said they’re frustrated and say the lines are long – and benefits are harder to get.

A spokesperson said the agency takes those concerns very seriously. She added that there are teams in place trying to address issues as soon as they happen.

Christine Johnston said she showed up at the DHS office in Providence to get her replacement EBT card. She said she then left empty-handed.

“It’s honestly a zoo now,” she said. “Instead of getting your food today – which they used to just load a card and put your money on it – instead of that they’re having you fill out a form and telling you the cars will be within seven to 10 days.”

The state’s new integrated benefits eligibility system launched on Tuesday – replacing a 30-year-old computer program. State officials say the system will make it easier for people to apply for and track their benefits – including Healthsource RI, Medicaid and SNAP benefits for food.

Customers can still go to field offices for help but they can also go online to:

  • Apply for benefits
  • Report changes
  • View and print notices
  • Upload documents

On Tuesday, Secretary Elizabeth Roberts said there were minor issues with employee logins and EBT cards. So far, those issues have persisted.

Customers said the problems seem widespread. There was a 30-percent spine in walk-ins to the Pawtucket and Providence field office, according to data Call 12 For Action requested from the state. Healthsource RI also reported a nearly 30 percent spike in calls.

So far, it is not clear how many people have been affected by the EBT card issues or when the issue will be resolved.

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