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Faulty computer system responsible for thousands of families denied food stamp benefits AP Photo/Seth Wenig
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

An NBC investigation revealed that tens of thousands of Illinois residents are unable to receive food stamps and other health benefits due to a computer system transition that is full of glitches.

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In October, 40-year-old computer software was replaced with $193 million upgrade from Deloitte. The new system is called IES (Integrated Eligibility System), but glitches and random system shut downs are constants. Work that used to take two minutes now takes weeks, says Maria Perez, a DHS supervisor.

Long waits from computer delays that are affecting multiple offices around the city and suburbs. With longer wait times, members hoping to receive benefits might miss out on important deadlines.

Up to 15,000 cases a month were cancelled under the old system. But in November, 41,000 cases were cancelled, although 12,000 have been reinstated. In the old system, benefits had to be manually cancelled but now, they are automatically cancelled on the 15th of the month if someone’s case doesn’t meet a deadline.

“The most vulnerable citizens of Illinois are being shorted” Brian Poncin, another DHS case worker. “We took these jobs because we want to help people. And now it feels like we have one hand tied behind our back.

“Everybody’s learning the new system, but the problem is we’re learning on the backs of poor people,” said Vonceil Metts, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union Local 2808. And we’re taking their benefits away during the worst possible season.”

Officials are confident the process will improve. “It’s supposed to be more efficient and in time it will be, said Ramon Ortiz, a DHS office administrator. “Just like with any new technology when you first roll it out there are issues, there’s a learning curve.”

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Similar issues have been reported in Rhode Island when they transitioned to a different system also developed by Deloitte earlier this year.

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In Illinois, 1.8 million people receive food stamps. Deloitte says they have been  working with the state of Illinois to both prepare for any delays and are also making improvements to the system.

While this new transition has only begun in the past couple months, the contract DHS signed with Deloitte was signed during the previous administration and say that open enrollment for Obamacare has also been affecting long wait times.

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