PROVIDENCE, R.I. Citing Rhode Islanders' continued frustration with long wait times, system errors and isolated reports of customers' services being disrupted for various reasons, Governor Gina M. Raimondo today ordered immediate actions to improve customer service at Department of Human Services field offices and strengthen ongoing efforts to stabilize the state's new, integrated eligibility software system as quickly as possible.
"While we experienced no major issues with the December 1 payments, Rhode Islanders across the state, including me, remain frustrated that people who count on our social service programs continue to experience long waits at our field offices and we continue to encounter system issues which dampen the customer experience," said Governor Raimondo. "No Rhode Islander should have to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary waiting in line, especially during the holidays. I'm ordering immediate actions to help improve customer service and strengthen oversight of DHS workflows. I will continue to hold the entire team - including our vendor - accountable, and I am prepared to take additional actions if we do not see results quickly."
The Governor announced specific, targeted actions today to improve customer service: Effective immediately, DHS will offer extended Saturday hours from 8:30am to 12:30pm at two additional locations: the Pawtucket and Warwick offices. DHS already offers extended weekday hours on Mondays and Wednesdays and Saturday hours at the Providence and Woonsocket offices. DHS will immediately begin a process to hire 35 additional staff to more quickly process pending applications. Governor Raimondo has also deployed managers from other state agencies to provide leadership to improve customer service. Tom Guthlein has been appointed Acting Associate Director of Program Operations at DHS to oversee this team.
The new, single system, which launched in September, replaced multiple software systems, nearly all of which were more than 30 years old. Prior to the launch, leadership from the project anticipated there would be some challenges and expected a temporary reduction in productivity as staff and customers adapted to a new process and technical issues were identified. Since the launch, there have been a number of reports about challenges with the system's software and increased wait times at the field office.
Since launching the system, Governor Raimondo has demanded that Deloitte provide additional management staff at no additional cost to taxpayers, extended hours at the busiest DHS field offices and strengthened management.