New Montana Food Stamp Software Delaying Some Payments

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – A move to a new computer system has caused some delays for people receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, state officials said.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services switched to a new computer system to administer the food assistance benefits last month, leading to some people’s electronic benefit transfer cards being denied at the grocery store checkout.

KECI-TV in Missoula heard from residents who had problems with their November benefits and the Missoulian reported Friday the problems have continued this month.

DPHHS spokesman Jon Ebelt said the agency issued $15 million in benefits last month, compared with about $16 million in November 2011, so benefits are being issued.

However, he acknowledges some people are being inconvenienced, in part because of the switch between the two computer systems and also because some employees are still learning the complex system.

“Do we think we can do better in terms of staff being more comfortable with the system? Yes,” he said Friday.

Those who have problems with their benefits are asked to contact their caseworkers for assistance.

“We’re working hard to minimize any kind of disruptions to people’s lives,” Ebelt said. “And when something like that happens, that’s what it is.”

The state issues SNAP benefits to about 126,000 people, or 59,000 households each month. The average benefit is about $268 per household or $126 per person, Ebelt said.

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