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RI ‘believes’ it met federal deadline to clear food stamp backlog

Target 12
DHS Department of Human Services Rhode Island_358743

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island officials have told the federal government they think they met a recent deadline to eliminate a backlog of food stamp cases.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) said the state was still sitting on 1,671 overdue unprocessed recertifications and 1,194 overdue unprocessed interim reports for SNAP benefits for food.

The agency demanded the state clear the backlog by Oct. 31, after granting the state an extension in June.

In a letter dated Nov. 1, R.I. Department of Human Services Director Courtney Hawkins told FNS that state has made “significant progress” with SNAP applications.

“DHS continues to work through the backlog of interim reports and recertifications,” Hawkins wrote. “The State believes that all SNAP overdue recertifications and interim reports have been completed.”

As Target 12 reported last week, DHS was racing to meet the federal deadline.

On Thursday afternoon, DHS spokesperson Alisha Pina was not able to provide a yes or no answer when asked whether the backlog had been eliminated. In a statement the same day, Pina said “the state believes we are on track to meet the backlog elimination targets identified in the letter.”

The backlog of SNAP applications is just one of the issues the state has grappled with since the Unified Health Infrastructure Project computer system launched in 2016.

The system, more commonly known as UHIP, was supposed to streamline programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and child care assistance, but almost immediately after the launch, users reported issues including missing benefits.

As Target 12 reported in August, FNS levied a $2 million fine against the state for food stamp errors, a majority of which were overpayments of benefits.

Rhode Island is appealing the fine, and both sides have requested an extension, according to a DHS spokesperson.

State officials have emphasized that Deloitte, the company that built UHIP, must pay any federal fines levied due to problems with the system.

At last check UHIP was expected to cost taxpayers $656 million over 10 years, despite an original promise that the system would pay for itself by 2018 though the elimination of waste and fraud.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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