UHIP update means stack of checks for some Rhode Islanders

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – An update to the state’s troubled new benefits computer system has some Rhode Islanders receiving an unexplained stack of checks.

The update caused the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) system to recheck the eligibility of applicants for the State Supplemental Payment program, and in cases where they were found to have been eligible for payments for a number of previous months, they were retroactively sent an individual check for each month. But no note was attached to explain why the identical checks had arrived.

R.I. Department of Human Services Director Courtney Hawkins sent notice of the update’s effect Friday afternoon in an email that was obtained by Eyewitness News. She also offered “apologies for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused.”

“We are still in the process of analyzing each specific case and will provide further details and guidance next week,” she wrote. “In the meantime, please hold on to the checks until the State gives further clarification.” It’s unclear how many people were affected.

The State Supplemental Payment program provides state-funded payments of $20 to $97.30 per month to individuals who qualify for the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which assists low-income individuals who are senior citizens, blind or disabled.

In a follow-up interview, Hawkins said she was fairly confident the checks had not been issued in error, but department staffers are still completing a review of the transactions to make sure.

“Through our work to make sure that Rhode Islanders are getting the benefits they’re eligible for, we were able to determine retroactive benefits may have been due to folks who didn’t receive them,” she said. “In the future, DHS strives to communicate with more clarity about these payments to people so that there isn’t confusion.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook