- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The contractor responsible for Rhode Island’s troubled benefits system has discovered several thousand more unprocessed benefits applications in the system, and has given the state a $58.6 million credit, state officials announced on Tuesday.

The state asked Deloitte to look into applications in the RI Bridges software system a few weeks ago, after noticing application numbers that were lower than would be expected, Health and Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane said. Initially, they thought a few hundred were missing, he said.

“Last week was when they disclosed the full magnitude of the problem,” Beane said.

While some of the applications may be duplicates, it’s not yet clear how many, he said. Deloitte is now working to determine how many applications have not been processed. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo set a deadline for Deloitte to clear the backlog by the end of the year.

RI Bridges, also known as the Unified Health Infrastructure Project, or UHIP, handles applications for food stamps, Medicaid benefits and other services. It has been beset by problems since launching in 2016, and was the subject of a lawsuit by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The $58.6 million credit is supposed to cover operations for the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2018. Deloitte also will pay for any federal fines for problems with the system, the state said. Deloitte also agreed to a $27 million credit earlier this year.

The two sides entered into a court-ordered settlement earlier this year. The ACLU on Tuesday blasted the state’s handling of the system as an “ongoing fiasco,” and said it was failing to comply with the terms of the settlement, which sets out time frames for when applications must be processed.

“This latest revelation - that thousands of benefit applications may not have been processed due to system errors - only highlights what has become an indisputable fact: whoever is to blame, the state is simply incapable of resolving this problem on its own,” the ACLU said.

Beane called it a serious setback, and said both the state and Deloitte need to redouble their efforts to address the backlog.

“The state does depend on Deloitte in order to meet its timeline targets,” he said.

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