Posted: Dec 14, 2012 6:16 PM by Marnee Banks (email@example.com)
The State of Montana recently launched a new software program which has caused some disruptions in the food stamp program.
A woman in Great Falls, who asked to keep her name and identity private, was one of the clients who didn't receive her benefits on time.
She is a mother of five children. Her husband works a seasonal job and so they rely on the food stamps to get through the winter. But this month when the benefits were scheduled to be deposited, they didn't come.
"We really depend on the food stamps right now. So basically the money that was going to be going toward rent, or bills I have to put directly toward food and that takes up most of paycheck," she said.
The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) launched the new software system in November.
It runs several public assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps; Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), commonly called welfare; Healthy Montana Kids; and Medicaid.
DPHHS spokesman Jon Ebelt admits there have been some glitches.
"We have received calls. I've talked to clients myself. They called up and wanted to know what's going on with SNAP benefits about why they aren't there, they should be there," Ebelt said. "When that's happened we've responded as quickly as we can."
The new system is a $30 million program & is expected to make processing and paying out benefits easier.
The old system looks like an archaic software program from the early 90s. Ebelt says the state has been using the old software for nearly 20 years. So the new system is a big improvement he says.
More than 120,000 Montanans are on the food stamps program and Ebelt says most every one of them received their benefits last month, to the tune of $15 million.
He says he doesn't know how many didn't receive their payment but those cases were handled on an individual basis.
"There's a lot of people that come through our offices of public assistance all over the state. We know their name, we know their face," Ebelt says. "They are real people."
The Great Falls woman says the biggest problem was not knowing the state was rolling out a new system.
"If there was communication to us people who have the need for the benefits, I don't think I would have had as big of an issue that I did. But there was no communication, no heads up that there could be a problem," she explained.
Ebelt says the state probably could have done a better job communicating but he assures the clients the state is working hard to work out the kinks so there aren't any more disruptions. He says if anyone is having trouble with their benefits they should contact their case worker.