County DHS changing aid application system
ARENAC COUNTY — Beginning in July, clients of the Arenac County Department of Human Services (DHS) will notice significant changes to the entire process of applying for aid.
According to Kim Bejcek, Bay/Arenac County DHS program manager, the Arenac County office currently uses three different data input systems for its WIC (Women, Infant and Children), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid and Daycare programs, but she says these current systems cause some headaches because data has to be entered three separate times.
“It’s difficult to keep up with,” Bejcek said. “Those three systems are very outdated.”
Due to the time consumption of the current systems, she says Arenac County will make the switch from its current programs to the new single data input system – Bridges – as 61 counties across Michigan have done already.
“Individuals with connections to other counties may have already noticed some changes,” she said.
Among the changes that will affect clients are reload dates (when assistance is renewed) and a shift in focus from case number to recipient ID, says Bejcek.
“Each individual in a household used to have a different case number,” she said. “Now there will only be one, based on the head of the household.”
She did acknowledge, though, that the shift to Bridges may cause some confusion for some clients.
“Reload dates (for SNAP recipients) will be based on recipient ID, which could cause a problem for some people,” Bejeck said. “If you’re used to getting reloaded on the first (of the month) and your date is switched to the ninth, it could cause problems.”
She also says people receiving Social Security benefits will receive their checks based on the last digit of their recipient ID as well.
Bejcek says although Arenac County workers are in the process of training for the changes, there will still be a strong learning curve for the office upon implementation, which she says could cause some delays at first. However, she added, once employees become familiar with the system, Bridges will be much more efficient than the current system, since it acts as more than just an input tool.
“The program has policy [installed] and will actually make determinations,” Bejcek said. She added the current setup doesn’t have the features to make an eligibility determination.
Bejcek also says Bridges will shorten the re-determination process, which is the mandatory follow up and continuation interview. But she says the application process will be significantly longer for new applicants.
“The initial interview is about 20, 30 minutes (now),” Bejcek said. “It’ll probably take around an hour and a half when Bridges is first installed, then it’ll get a little quicker once we (DHS) get familiar with it, but it will still be significantly longer.”
Another change that already took place, Bejcek says, is an increase in benefits to the EBT program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“It (ARRA) provides for a 13.6-percent increase in benefits,” Bejcek says.
The program manager says informational posters have been hung all around the county to get the word out beforehand in an attempt to prevent a barrage of phone calls during the switch, which would further complicate matters during the switch. She also says all notices after the switch will be sent from headquarters in Lansing instead of each individual office spending time mailing its own notifications.
She added DHS assistance recipients will be notified of the switch by mail around June, and says when calling the DHS office for specific case information, be prepared with your recipient ID number.
For more information, contact the Arenac County DHS office at 989-846-5500.