Aug. 31, 2017

Rep. Patricia Serpa at 828-5687


Rep. Serpa ‘outraged’ with failure of officials to provide information on troubled UHIP system


STATE HOUSE — Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, said she is “outraged and losing patience” with the Department of Human Services’ failure to provide requested information to both the committee and federal agencies regarding the botched rollout of a new computer system last year that determines eligibility of households receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.

Most recently, the committee, which met today to hear an update of the situation, was made aware of a March letter from the federal Food and Nutrition Service that identified an over-issuance of benefits as a result of the rollout.

“We continue to uncover and discover more information,” said Representative Serpa. “We just found out that the FNS identified a number of instances where DHS did not comply with federal statutes and regulations, resulting in over-issued benefits to a substantial number of households. It doesn’t appear that the state is going to be able to recoup these losses. None of us had any idea of the enormity of this problem and it’s still not fixed. I don’t entertain any hopes that this problem is going to be fixed through the next legislative session.”

In a follow-up letter from FNS on Aug. 23, the agency was warned that system fixes must be implemented promptly to ensure that households receive only the benefits for which they are eligible.

“DHS should understand that the size of the potential state claim may be significant, given the number of households likely affected and the period of time over which the over-issuances may have occurred,” the letter stated.

“That means a built-in deficit going into next year’s budget,” said Representative Serpa. “My understanding is that federal law provides that if the over-issuance is the result of a major systemic error by the state agency, FNS may prohibit that agency from collection of the over-issuance from households. House fiscal advisors have indicated that it may be a deficit well into six figures.”

It was the eighth meeting the Oversight Committee has convened regarding UHIP since first opening an investigation on the program on Oct. 20, 2016. Since then, the committee has heard testimony on the botched computer system from public officials, nursing home and child care administrators, and citizens affected by the rollout.

The $364-million Unified Health Infrastructure project, now also called RIBridges, is a statewide computer system that replaces and unifies numerous aged computer systems across the state’s human services agencies, with the goals of modernization, information sharing and efficiency. The program has faced criticism for changes in size and scope over the years.

Since becoming chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee in May 2016, Representative Serpa has continuously investigated several prominent failures within multiple state agencies.  She has led the charge for answers on topics of public importance such as the UHIP fiasco, the deaths and near-deaths of several children under DCYF’s care, the severe tax refund delays last year, and publicly calling for the Attorney General to release all documents related to 38 Studios. 






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