Roberts: New benefits system working for most recipients

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The rocky launch of Rhode Island’s new online benefits system has led to numerous complaints from residents.

State officials said they understand the frustration, but claim the system is working for a majority of the 318,000 residents who rely on assistance.

“That was part of my income for the month,” said Fred Seminick, one of 29,000 people who saw delays in their monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.

The glitch that prevented those payments was just one of a slew of issues discovered in the state’s new integrated benefits eligibility system. Employees had trouble logging into the new system, there were problems processing EBT cards, and some people discovered empty balances for their SNAP benefits for food. Even some child care providers weren’t paid on time.

Rhode Island officials said those problems have been resolved and Health and Humans Secretary Elizabeth Roberts defended the new $364 million computer system.

“The vast majority of that almost one-third of the Rhode Island population is being served without any problem,” she said.

Roberts did admit there are still long lines and long call wait times, some HealthSource RI customers still can’t make changes to their online accounts, and about 100 Medicaid members have incorrect termination dates, though the state says a temporary fix is in place to make sure no one loses coverage.

“I want to make sure people realize that and we’re doing everything possible to fix those issues that have arisen for the people who are experiencing some challenges,” Roberts added.

Department of Human Services Director Melba Depeña Affigne says she’s authorized overtime and that the agency is in talks with the union to try to get extended weekday hours and Saturday hours at a DHS field office.