Raimondo: It was a mistake to lay off social workers before UHIP launch

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she’s taking more steps to fix the state’s new public benefits system that has been beset by problems since it launched in September.

The Democrat said the state is hiring 35 eligibility technicians for temporary jobs and opening two more field offices on Saturday mornings in Pawtucket and Warwick to reduce backlogs.

“People deserve better,” Raimondo said. “A few months from now, we’re going to be in a much better place than we are now.”

Rhode Island is transitioning to a new, $364 million computer system to administer benefits such as food stamps and health care.

On Wednesday, Target 12 learned five clients and their dependents – totaling 15 people – lost benefits because of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project – otherwise known as UHIP – mistakenly classified them as deceased. The glitch is the latest in a long series of problems with UHIP.

Raimondo says it was a mistake to lay off social workers shortly before the new system launched.

“We underestimated how much people power we would need with the new technology,” she said. “And I think it also shows that the team probably made a mistake in not doing this sooner.”

She says the system’s performance has improved significantly since November. She expects a rocky few more months but it’s going to be a much better system than the decades-old one it’s replacing.

In the meantime, there’s still approximately 1,600 system defects with UHIP that need to be fixed.

“They know very well that we’re disappointed,” she said of Deloitte, the company hired to build UHIP. “I haven’t ruled out any steps at this point in terms of changing their contract or reducing what they’re going to be paid, and they know they have to continue to step up and deliver.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Administration said there was no cost estimate available for the additional workers.