VIDEO: ACLU to Seek Additional Remedies Against Raimondo Administration for UHIP Failures

Wednesday, October 04, 2017


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Steven Brown, RI ACLU on GoLocal LIVE

Steve Brown joined GoLocal LIVE to discuss the Rhode Island ACLU going back to court to seek additional judicial remedies to ensure timely provision of food stamp assistance to families in need.

On Tuesday, the ACLU said that the Raimondo Administration's Department of Human Services is “not only failing to meet court-ordered benchmarks for providing this assistance to eligible families, the agency is even unable to provide an accurate report on its level of compliance with those benchmarks – all in violation of a court order issued seven months ago.”

“It has now been a year since the catastrophic rollout of the UHIP system. That the state, twelve months later, concedes that it is unable to even provide us numbers on how well or poorly they are complying with the settlement is simply intolerable. Enough is enough,” said ACLU of RI director Steven Brown.

Department of Human Services Fails to Meet Standards

Last December, the ACLU and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) sued over the State’s failure to timely provide food stamp benefits (known as SNAP) to needy families due to its transition to the UHIP computer system.

In February, the groups entered into a court-approved settlement agreement with DHS that established a timetable mandating steady improvement every month over a period of months in the agency’s processing of SNAP applications and provisions of timely benefits. The court order also said that the plaintiffs be given a monthly report on the agency’s level of compliance with those benchmarks.

Full compliance was scheduled to be completed by August of 2017, and reported to the plaintiffs by September 15.

According to the ACLU, the agency has never come close to reaching those monthly benchmarks, which by August required the agency to achieve timely issuance of benefits to eligible families in 96% of SNAP applications.

The ACLU adds that the state has admitted it is unable to even provide its mandated monthly report indicating the agency’s compliance status – and, further, that earlier monthly reports may have contained inaccurate information as well. 

DHS director Courtney Hawkins advised the groups that Deloitte had encountered programming issues that were preventing the state from providing accurate data for the monthly reports that are mandated by the court order. On numerous previous occasions, after the NCLEJ and ACLU pointed out concerns with the reports, DHS had assured the two organizations that the problems were being taken care of.

ACLU of RI volunteer attorney Lynette Labinger added, “The State has never complied with the benchmarks required by the court order. The State has repeatedly told us that they lack confidence in their own numbers, and now they have declined to provide a report at all.  The State apparently doesn’t even know exactly what the problems with the reporting system are. While we recognize the state’s frustration with its vendor, frustration does not put food on the table of hungry families. We have repeatedly tried without success to work with the State on implementing possible short-term and long-term measures. Under the circumstances, we have an obligation to SNAP beneficiaries to seek expanded court-ordered relief.”

Federal Law Requirement

Under federal law, states participating in the food stamp program are required to process food stamp applications within thirty days of the date of application, and to provide expedited food stamps to eligible households within seven days


Related Slideshow: UHIP Assessment Report to Governor Raimondo


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