Feds warn taxpayers could be on the hook for latest UHIP issue

PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) – Rhode Island has not been able to fully implement this year’s federally required cost-of-living adjustments for food stamps, and it may cost the state.

According to a letter, dated September 26, the state notified Food and Nutrition Service, the federal agency that oversees SNAP benefits for food, about two separate issues that could affect 25,000 Rhode Island households.

“One involves a technical defect that is currently preventing the successful application of the cola to approximately 13,000 households,” according to the letter.

The second issue “could result in incorrect termination or benefit issuance” for 12,000 cases, the letter said.

The letter warned that if the state failed to implement the cost-of-living adjustments by October 1, as required by law, “it will be liable for any over-issuances that result.”

In an email, DHS spokesperson Alisha Pina said, “Last week, we shared DHS has updated nearly 70 percent of the SNAP cases to date and of these, about 93 percent were adjusted with an increase or decrease between $1 to $10.”

“We anticipate updating the remaining SNAP cases in the coming weeks. This was also disclosed to our federal partner, FNS, in our recent weekly conversation with them. We plan to update them further in the next couple of weeks,” she added.

Pina said it would be premature to estimate the over-issuance of SNAP benefits.

As Target 12 first reported, FNS warned Rhode Island not to launch UHIP last September, but the state went ahead anyway. More recently, the agency sent letters demanding compliance with federal reporting requirements, and also threatened to withhold administrative funds.

The UHIP system has been plagued with problems that have affected benefits for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders. Months after the launch, Gov. Gina Raimondo apologized and promised a turnaround. Deloitte has refunded some of the money spent on the project.