Setbacks During Rhode Island's Public Benefits System Rollout Not Unexpected, Officials Say

The project marks the largest IT undertaking in the state, and was focused on replacing a network of decades-old systems with the assistance of information technology contractor Deloitte.

by / September 16, 2016
Rhode Island State House in Providence
Rhode Island State House in Providence

Rhode Island’s launch of a pricey new public benefits system this week has not gone as smoothly as some had hoped. The $364 million IT project, meant to give state residents access to food stamps, cash assistance, and child and health care services, stalled following its rollout and prompted frustration on the part of benefit seekers and staff.

Following an assault on one employee in the Department of Human Services’ Providence field office, local media reported state employees were unable to log into their computers and that benefits paperwork was backing up.

The project marks the largest IT undertaking in the state, and was focused on replacing a network of decades-old systems with the assistance of information technology contractor Deloitte.

Despite the reported setbacks to the project and charges from union representatives that the system was an “absolute mess,” a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Administration told the Providence Journal issues with the system had been addressed. 

But the setbacks were not completely unexpected, as Department of Administration Director Michael DiBiase told the newspaper in statement

“We have dedicated considerable time and resources to making this transition as smooth as possible," he said, "but we know that we will encounter some issues in the immediate days, weeks and months after the launch."

Other state officials said that they were “pleased” with the with the new eligibility system, though the need for a change in business operations was acknowledged.

“Our employees have been performing well, and we are pleased with the launch of the new eligibility system. That being said, we do recognize that any time there is a massive change to the way we do business, there will always be workers and customers that will experience challenges,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Roberts said in a statement to the Journal.

Deloitte did not return Government Technology's request for comment by press time.