- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A special official appointed to oversee Rhode Island’s troubled benefits system has ordered the state Department of Human Services to hire more call center workers to handle food assistance applications.

Special Master Deming Sherman says the Pawtucket call center has “unacceptable” wait times, frustrates applicants with questions and hinders the timely processing of applications. Sherman’s order requires DHS to contract an outside vendor for at least 120 days.

DHS representatives said Tuesday wait times currently average two hours. The center receives about 10,000 calls each week.

The state had rolled out the Unified Health Infrastructure Project computer system in 2016 to handle applications for benefits. The system has seen several technical issues since.

The company that built the system has promised a major fix in May.

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