Social services state assistance paid on time after computer failure

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – There's some good news in the ordeal following a major state computer system failure. The Department of Social Services, one of the 26 agencies impacted, has recovered. It met its goal of distributing benefits payments to those in need.

September 1 was a looming deadline for the department. It is the day anyone getting state assistance checks their bank account for some much needed aid. But when the commonwealth's computer system failed, there was a question as to whether or not the agency could meet the goal.

We first introduced you to Debi Stephenson and her son Jeremy Monday, when they were questioning if they'd be able to make ends meet, come September 1.

"I don't want to say I panicked, but I did get kind of worried," said 8th grader Jeremy.

His anxiety stems from the failure of the social services computer program used to process benefits. The Stephensons receive state assistance in the form of food stamps and a cash card to buy anything else the family may need.

"Can you live without shampoo," asked Debi. "Or can you live without dish detergent? No, I don't think so."

After calling the hotline numerous times a day, Stephenson finally got the message she had been waiting to hear. It listed an account balance of $165.42.

That's because when the system came back online Friday afternoon, DSS kicked it into high gear. Employees worked late and over the weekend, while technology staff continued to monitor the situation.

"There was genuine concern," said department spokesperson Marianne McGhee. "People were really serious about doing everything they could to make sure folks were not inconvenienced."

Now, the Stephensons are able to take pleasure in the simple things, like finally doing the dishes and laundry.

The electronic benefits cards have all been processed. For the 2000 people still receiving paper checks through the mail, those payments were sent out Tuesday.

The agency is still working out the glitches on a few technical applications at the state office, but officials tell us those will not cause problems for customers coming into local offices.

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