Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Layoffs in San Antonio

Dozens lose jobs at Texas Access Alliance in San Antonio Group of private companies has state contract for controversial new system to help Texans sign up for public assistance
By Corrie MacLaggan <>
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Several dozen San Antonio employees of a private contractor hired by the state to help Texans apply for public assistance lost their jobs Friday, according to an internal memo obtained by the Austin American-Statesman.

It was the latest development in the saga of a problem-plagued new system for determining people's eligibility for food stamps and Medicaid. The system launched its pilot phase in Travis and Hays counties in January. Those who lost their jobs did not meet performance standards, said Jill Angelo, a spokeswoman for the Texas Access Alliance, the group of companies that won the state contract. "We continue to work on performance, making changes to the pilot program at the state's direction," she said. "That's the point of a pilot — to fix whatever issues the program has." Angelo confirmed that 15 full-time Maximus Inc. employees and some temporary employees lost their jobs. She would not say how many temporary employees were affected; the internal memo says 59. The workers were responsible for compiling documents for cases. The temporary employees were in a 90-day probation period; had they met performance standards, they would have been hired, Angelo said.

The move comes three months after state officials announced that they were delaying statewide rollout of the new eligibility system, citing problems with employee training and technical concerns. The system is costing the state $899 million over five years. In May, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins announced that no new cases will be processed in the San Antonio Texas Access Alliance office until the contractor improves the work there. He also canceled plans to lay off 1,000 state workers, though other jobs had already been eliminated. Mike Gross, vice president of the 12,000-member Texas State Employees Union and a critic of the privatization plan, said that perhaps the alliance has learned that relatively low-paid, low-skilled workers can't replace experienced state employees. "The whole project is obviously in trouble," Gross said. "This golden opportunity to make a lot of profit for not much work is not panning out."

In a Friday afternoon e-mail to Texas Access Alliance managers, Maximus Human Resources Director Shar Griffin wrote that managers had reviewed employee performance "in order to ensure the highest quality work for the citizens" of Texas. "Based upon this review, we made the decision to not extend the employment of some of the staff in San Antonio who failed to meet this performance criteria," she wrote. "This means that going forward, San Antonio site will be a smaller organization than yesterday." There are 478 employees at the San Antonio office, Angelo said. Lateesha Guyden was one of those who got a pink slip. Guyden, a single mother of four, had worked full time for Maximus as a supervisor in San Antonio since December. Before that, she depended on public assistance. "I was so grateful to receive that job," said Guyden, 32. Now, she says, she'll probably request public assistance again.

The new eligibility system involves closing some offices where people apply for public assistance and replacing them with call centers managed by the alliance, which includes Accenture LLP and Maximus. State officials last year projected that Texas would save $646 million over five years but now aren't sure what it will save. Maximus announced Tuesday that it signed an amendment to its five-year contract with the Texas Access Alliance and expects to earn $320 million, about 14 percent less than planned. After call centers started taking applications in the pilot area in January, applicants encountered long wait times and spoke to representatives who couldn't answer their questions. Since April, worker training has improved and hold times have been reduced, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the commission. State officials are concerned about technical problems. It may be months before the system is rolled out statewide.


Anonymous said...

Some of the people that were layed off had excellent QA's and attendance..for those that remain at TAA it is hard to know what the expectations are as far as performance standards are concerned..there is rumor of a second round of layoffs scheduled for this week. With all the problems with the system ect.,it has become difficult to concentrate on any work for trying to keep up with the daily mill and wonder "am I next".
especially when they layed people off like the women mentioned in the Statesman article. In my opinion she knew her job and was an asset to the company that once entrusted her with our states programs. What is going on at TAA? and can anyone confirm a second round of layoffs? Sorry Samm that this is also turning into the "Disposable-wannabe State worker" site too.

Anonymous said...

This is sad. So the TAA employees are being laid off? Who do they think they are going to hire now? Why do they think they can do it with less people?

Anonymous said...

Who ever knows what they are thinking? They seem to do everything backwards..and make all the employees and the people on benefits suffer the most...Go figure??

Anonymous said...

Well, It's Friday 062306 any more lay offs in the call center?

Anonymous said...

Wow that article and the comment further shows how little the public and critics know about the operations at TAA in San Antonio. The person commented in the article about low skilled and inexperienced people vs the seasoned Caseworkers,....just in case you didnt know or if he is reading this post, there are many people now employed at the TAA San Antonio location that are former State employees case workers ect. They are basically at the helm of the San Antonio offices. In fact former state employess may outnumber the so called low skilled workers currently employed by TAA.

I am unsure how the setup in midland and Austin are run but I do know that before fingers continue to point and put TAA down, it should be known that many of your former collegues are now part of the Privatization of welfare and have the say so and power to make this thing work...

Anonymous said...

Those state workers don't necessarily believe in 'privatization' as much as seeing to it that they have a long term job.

I know some people who are in the San Antonio call center who are former employees- and they said that they didn't feel like it was going to work, it would at least be a secure job for a while- as TAA NEEDED state employees.

If so many people are former state employees, why is the work returning to the field offices? Shouldn't those state employees know how to manage the workload and get it done?

Anonymous said...

from the few glimpses of TIERS that I have seen, and some of to convoluted, complicated procedure guides that have been passed along to me, I am NOT looking forward to TIERS. I visualize "tears" when I think of TIERS.

I am assigned to move to the Midland call center "if and when" roll out proceeds. A year ago, I was looking forward to something new, exciting and different. That was then. Now I am dreading the day that I will be forced to transition to TIERS (tears).