Overwhelmed by an increase in applications for food stamps and Medicaid, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has postponed plans to expand use of a new computer enrollment system, officials said today.
"The national economic situation has certainly arrived in Texas, at least in our offices," said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the commission.
Statewide, Texas is struggling to meet the 30-day federal standard for processing food stamp applications and the 45-day standard for Medicaid applications. For example, in March, the state met the food stamp deadline for 76.4 percent of applications (95 percent is the goal).
Enrollment in food stamps is up almost 20 percent from a year ago, according to the commission.
The Commission has been gradually expanding use of the TIERS computer system, which was designed to replace a decades-old system called SAVERR that is still in use in many state offices.
TIERS (Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System) is already in place in the Austin area. The El Paso area was scheduled to get the new system next. But the commission's chief, Albert Hawkins, decided to delay the El Paso plan.
Goodman said: "It's tough to make any changes when you're drinking from a fire hose."
She said the problem had to do with workload and not the system itself. The state is struggling to meet time standards for applications in both SAVERR and TIERS, she said.
But TIERS has been criticized, and State Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, vice chairman of the House Committee on Human Services, has filed a bill that would halt further expansion of TIERS until cases processed in the system are completed accurately and on time.
"I applaud Commissioner Hawkins' decision to voluntarily postpone the expansion of TIERS so that previous mishaps, which resulted in lapse of services for eligible Texans, can be avoided," Herrero said in a statement.
Herrero's proposal, House Bill 3859, is scheduled to be considered by the human services committee today.
Here are some of the comments from the article:
April 10, 2009 12:41 PM | Link to this
I think that we as state and a nation are in deep trouble. Discussion of any issue draws personal insults and slights. Dare to say that a program is unconstitutional, when it is popular and brings in votes, then it becomes a question of politics. I would like to see politics discussed but I would like to see the discussion moderated by someone that knows the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Texas Constitution. We have lost sight of what is constitutional as opposed to what is a vote getter. We can not continue to support an ever larger government and ever increasing programs. The issue is not whether State Workers earn their pay but rather how is there going to be enough money to pay them? As more and more industries and institutions become tax free nationalized bureaucracies versus tax producing industries the money to make up the difference has to come from a shrinking pool of taxpayers. As we demand that our government take over personal well being we do so at our the expense of our personal freedom. When you suddenly start asserting states rights, that are incompatible to the way things were done "Back Home" or "Back Where I Came From", there is a culture clash caused by people not understanding the laws of "Our State".
April 10, 2009 9:48 AM | Link to this
The people who are getting food stamps while living in big homes and driving nice cars can't own the homes (and could be only days away from foreclosure) or the cars (could be borrowed). There are asset limits to these programs, which can be a real problem for people who have lost jobs, spent their savings, and can't sell the house or the car for more than the loan values. It takes awhile to learn how to live in poverty.
April 10, 2009 9:37 AM | Link to this
I am a state employee that left to go to work in the "real world". I more than doubled my salary but I did not enjoy the work. I made more money at the expense of my family. After two years I went back to work for the state but the only difference now is that before with the state I worked 40 hours a week…since being back 3 years I work anywhere from 45-70. And since the overtime has been cut I donate my time after 40 hours. It is against policy to work off the clock but these is no way to meet the demands of the job without the extra time. Remember we are in the business of helping the people of Texas. It may only be 50.00 a month in food stamp benefits but food stamps are a supplement to your income to assist with food cost. And last but not least it is a income based program so if a family is only receiving 50.00 a month it is due to the amount of income they receive monthly.
April 10, 2009 8:13 AM | Link to this
Dear Newbieposter — you are seriously misinformed about state employees. All I can say to you is "don't hate!" Most of us work very hard, and for less pay than private employees doing the same kind of work. We do have good benefits, but we definitely earn them, and it is incentive to work for less pay than a private company. As far as we "can't get fired," welllll, let me say, I just saw about 4 people eliminated from our office just recently — kind of scary.
April 10, 2009 8:03 AM | Link to this
you are a newbie "cushy jobs and unlimited budgets"? What state are you talking about? You should try working in the eligibility system for a few weeks and then decide if you want to call it cushy. It's low pay, non-stop work. As for unlimited budgets; you must be overmedicated. This past year the governor asked all agencies to cut back their budgets by 10% due to the projected shortfall of funds. Welcome to the party, but please do a little research first.
April 9, 2009 9:18 PM | Link to this
have you ever heard of a State worker that didn't think he/she was overworked and overwhelmed? they have cushy jobs where they can't get fired and unlimited budgets; try working in the real world
April 9, 2009 5:25 PM | Link to this
National TV news reported that in some states people are getting food stamps that live in multi-million dollar homes, and drive very expensive cars. I hope our state doesn't have these type of applicants.
April 9, 2009 3:44 PM | Link to this
I would like to see any state politician try to live on $50.00 a week for food stamps, eating 3 square meals a day. No job, no insurance and facing eviction! Now that's what I call an enormous problem. Now what about the computer system???????
April 9, 2009 2:46 PM | Link to this
Incompetence in updating a software system is typical on how backwards Texas is. Even in a company software or IT changes are really management facilitated process changes. They can typically take years to completey implement. But who in tarnation wants to stick with outdated methods of running state agencies? This is really shocking but not surprising that "confusion, irresponsibility and sheer incompetence " are what is playing into delaying modern technology that could eventually streenline a business (in this case a state agency).
April 9, 2009 11:19 AM | Link to this
Tiers does not work.. If it worked, it would have been rolled out statewide years ago. I say the state should cut their loses and start over. STOP the maddness. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. This insane.
By orlando garza
April 9, 2009 10:37 AM | Link to this
Stephanie Goodman is paid to tell you that all is well in the State of Texas. Ask her anything about what's really happening and her answer would be "duh?". The criminals in this case is HHSC "executive commissioner" Albert Hawkins and Governor Rick Perry. They should be hung by their toenails for crimes against humanity, namely the People of the State of Texas. These guys and their fat-cat cronies are robbing the State of Texas and lining their pockets with kickbacks and lining the pockets of their private sector co-horts with money that should be used to provide real services to those in need. You would think that after spending over one billion dollars on TIERS that it would be fully functional. Think again..TIERS is no where near being functional…as a matter of fact, it is estimated that it will be ten years before TIERS can be rolled out statewide. TIERS is the reason Texas is in this mess. I hope you do not have to wait in line for assistance because it will be a long wait for you.
April 9, 2009 9:50 AM | Link to this
In addition to my previous comment…the adminstrators and supervisors I have worked with to resolve problems have been extremely helpful and responsive to individual client issues. The problem is that there are so many screwed up cases they simply don't have the time or staff to go over every case that should have been handled correctly at the entry level in the first place. How about staffing local offices to full capacity again so clients can actually meet face to face, hand deliver documents, etc. so they don't get lost in the system. I know that the idea of having people apply over the phone was supposed to save money, but the problems created by this have certainly been extremely expensive as well.
April 9, 2009 9:44 AM | Link to this
if we would as americans and start pointing are fingers at the people that are here illegaly just may be we wouldn,t have to support everyone that enters this country illegaly
April 9, 2009 9:38 AM | Link to this
Part of the problem with the current system being overwhelmed is that applicants end up having to apply over and over. A person will apply and the application is lost. When the applicant calls to check on why the benefits have not started in the allotted time, they are told we don't have your application, or you didn't send us the proper documentation, etc, etc. I have been working in the social services field for several years and have had more clients that I can remember have these issues with the system. This is on a good day. The last time the state switched computer/data base systems I had clients who were waiting 3 months or more for benefits only to be told the state had never received their applications. I understand that the system is overwhelmed and understaffed. Perhaps the state should concentrate on fixing the existing system (which is done primarily over the phone and through faxing documents) When you have clients submitting applications over and over and clients being removed from eligibility because the state lost their documentation you can begin to see the enormity of the problem.
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