Social services slowed by computer glitch

By Matt Butner - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The State Department of Social Services is scrambling to recover from the statewide computer malfunction and to pay recipients' benefits on time.

People like George Lough depend heavily on social services to survive.  Lough is severely ill and out of work.

"Right now, [I depend on social services] 100 percent,"said Lough.  "I have food stamps through them, it's all I have. If it wasn't for Medical Respite, I'd be on the street."

Lough was turned away Friday when he traveled to the Richmond office to apply for additional assistance.

"They just told me there's nothing they can do today, because the computers are down," he said.

Problems persisted at service centers throughout the day.

A bigger problem for the agency statewide -- trying to get benefit money to needy people on time.  Many expect checks by the first of the month, which is less than a week away.

"Of course our households are budgeting around the expectation of the benefits they are going to receive, and we want to minimize any financial strain on those households," said Marianne McGhee, a spokesperson for the department.

Social services employees have been working hard to adjust to the curve ball the computers have thrown.

"We've had to ramp up quickly to do this, and the work isn't over yet," McGhee said.

The agency can't say for certain whether all that benefit money will arrive as scheduled, but confidence is high.

"At this time, we're really expecting our benefits to be issued in a timely manner, so we've all been working toward that goal," said McGhee.

Meanwhile, George Lough can only wait for the help he needs.

"Not just me, there's hundreds of people who want the same thing. It's a major drama," he said.

"I have to wait 'til Tuesday to come back, hoping they're back up."

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