Early feedback has been promising. According to Hazel, Fairfax County went from a 21-day wait for determining eligibility of SNAP benefits to now in some cases a phone interview for that determination is made in the minutes following an application being submitted through the system.

According to Melissa Perdue, assistant director of public affairs for the Virginia Department of Social Services, total development of CommonHelp has cost $10,779,739 as of Oct. 15. That amount includes the Deloitte contract, travel, staff time and training.

The final amount for the project will be determined in early November, after outstanding closeout costs are tallied.

Future Plans

The CommonHelp website is just the public-facing portion of the project, however. The back-end eligibility enrollment system is also going to be replaced. Hazel said a vendor should be selected and ready to begin the work in November, with a target of having the system at least partially replaced and online by Oct. 1, 2013.

Eligibility system replacements don't always go as planned, however. Texas recently completed its own project after an eight-year transition. In that case, Texas had to bring in Stanley Stewart — who oversaw and guided Michigan's eligibility system replacement — in order to get the Texas effort back on track.

Hazel said Virginia is already looking at its business processes and roles and getting that transitioned to computer code in anticipation of the project. He added that by doing the public website development first, the state Department of Health and Human Resources “learned an awful lot about managing a technology project” and had started the necessary preparatory work.

In addition, Hazel revealed that long-term plans for the system include finding a way to make CommonHelp available to corrections facilities so that prisoners getting released have an easier time transitioning back into society. The state also hopes to connect CommonHelp to its Homeless Information Monitoring System and the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to help servicemen and their families.

Brian Heaton  | 

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.