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State Officials Say They’re Still Fixing Benefind


After the troubled rollout earlier this year of Benefind -- Kentucky’s new online portal for welfare services -- state officials say they are still working out the kinks in the program.

“The system is working much, much better now than at roll out,” said Tim Feeley, deputy secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "We’re going to continue working on problems until we do this right for the citizens of Kentucky.”

The $100 million program, launched in late February, erroneously sent out about 25,000 notices to people saying that their benefits had been canceled. The state also had to work through a backlog of about 50,000 cases created from conflicting information from newly merged systems. The administration says it cleared the backlog in mid-May.

Now officials say they are trying to fix logistical issues like how to revive elements of the old system that allowed for one-on-one relationships between caseworkers and clients.

“We lost the community engagement, people didn’t know the people they are working with any longer,” said Deck Decker, executive director of the cabinet’s Office of Administrative and Technology Service. “It’s proven to be very inadequate. Right now we’re working on correcting that. We’re doing several things and looking into bringing that back out to the local level.”

Before the new system, Kentuckians who wanted to apply for benefits like SNAP (food stamps), TANF (cash assistance) or child care assistance had to apply over the phone or in person at local Department for Community Based Services offices.

Now the programs have been combined with the massive eligibility program for Kentucky’s Medicaid program into the new online-based Benefind system.

DCBS workers still help clients navigate the system, but technical glitches and difficulties with the new system have continued to weigh down the process.

The administration was able to clear up the 50,000-case back log earlier this year by creating a dedicated call center where 91 DCBS workers from across the state traveled to Frankfort and worked through the cases in a matter of weeks.

Decker said that initiative helped train DCBS workers on Benefind — something which hadn’t adequately happened yet.

“It performed the training mission that we really should have done before this went out because people are being trained on how to do it, then they’re going back to their home offices,” Decker said.

Workers received training on the Benefind program in September. The rollout of the program was delayed along with the change in administrations. Officials said many workers weren't familiar with the system by the February launch.

Decker said he’s worried about what will happen when people re-enroll for benefits in October.

“All these people are going to start showing back up in our offices," he said. "I believe we’re in a place now to where we can handle that workload but until I see it in October I’m not 100 percent sure."

Benefind was created by previous Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, along with international consulting firm Deloitte.

On Wednesday, officials said Deloitte was paying to fix all of the “technical issues” Benefind has experienced.

This week, Sen. Danny Carroll, a Paducah Republican called the situation “troubling.”

“I think as a state we owe some of our residents an apology,” Carroll said. “I just wish we had done better in communications in the beginning of all this just to let people know that we’re changing systems, there are going to be some problems so everybody wasn’t so caught off guard with what was going on.”

Carroll suggested last week that the attorney general look into the state’s contract with Deloitte and the disruptions caused by the new program.

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