Politics

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is bringing 91 field workers from around the state to Frankfort to help deal with the backlog of applications in Benefind, the new umbrella portal for Kentucky’s welfare programs.

Since the February rollout of Benefind, people trying to get benefits have had to deal with long wait times at local Department for Community Based Services offices and over the phone. The system also erroneously sent out notices to some people that their benefits had been canceled.

Brandon Carlson, the project manager for the initiative, said the group had already processed more than 9,000 cases this week.

“By focusing our efforts here on those cases, we were able to free up our workers at all the local DCBS offices to address the lobby traffic and the high volume of calls and the new applications,” he said.

The cabinet estimates it now has a backlog of 16,000 cases, down from 30,000 at the beginning of the week.

Benefind was designed by consulting firm Deloitte and former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, and rolled out by Bevin’s new administration on Feb. 29. Bevin officials blame Beshear for the system’s problems and Beshear, in turn, has blamed Bevin for botching the rollout.

Chris Rogers, a DCBS worker from Grayson, said he saw firsthand what created the backlog.

“At first, just the processing and the speed of the cases was a little slower, it took us longer to go through the cases than normal,” he said.

Deloitte continues to work on Benefind under the new administration and has sent employees out to local DCBS offices to find glitches and train workers on the new system.

Kevin Pollari, a principal with Deloitte, said the firm has issued several fixes to the system.

“In the whole range of software development, this is one of the most complex systems you can imagine,” he said. “I think the most important thing is just getting everybody accustomed to the volume of work. It’s a combination of training people, system performance and everybody getting accustomed to it.

Workers at the Benefind office.Ryland Barton | wfpl.org

Workers at the Benefind office.

Benefind has also caused consternation for those applying for health insurance through Kynect, the state health exchange.

Last month, Bevin administration officials announced that some who had gotten insurance through Kynect had information that didn’t match up with figures imported into the Benefind system, triggering a review of 51,000 cases.

Kynectors — state contractors and volunteers tasked with helping Kentuckians navigate the health exchange — were unable to process many applications because federal law prevents them from dealing with benefits in Benefind like SNAP (food stamps) and TANF (cash assistance.

Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of the Health and Family Services Cabinet, said Kynectors — those who help customers navigate the Kynect system — might soon be able to process those applications. She said state officials recently discussed the problem with federal officials.

“We need the navigators,” Glisson said. “We welcome the use of navigators, we need as many hands on deck.”

Officials say most of the pending cases will be cleared by the second week of May.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.