Thursday, May 12, 2005

Quietly The Texas Welfare Meltdown is Beginning

Note: My comments are those of a private citizen, and do not represent the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in any way.

The Donner Party

The atmosphere in the Texas Works Division of HHSC is currently about where the Donner Party was when they had just polished off the last can of beans. People who I thought would never leave, are talking about getting out now. When a new job outside of Texas Works is posted, there is a general scramble to apply for it.

To give you an example, my people, in addition to having to do twice the work with half of the people that we used to have, they are now having to stick return address labels on window envelopes, because we can't even get window envelopes with our return address printed on them. We see good people leaving every few days now. I wonder how long it will take before a full scale breakdown begins to be obvious. The quality of case work is in sharp decline, and the people at State Office continue to act as if it were a training problem, or a discipline problem, rather that it being a question of resources, staffing, and workload. Just a few years ago, in fact just before they began implementing their current plans, we were doing the best of any large state in the country. Now we are doing terribly, but the problem is not the plan but the people who just a few years ago were doing great?

The Austin Chronicle is reporting that one of the three bills that would have slowed down the process of the implementation of TIERS is dying in committee. Two other bills are likely going to meet a similar fate. I’m afraid we have passed the point where something might have been done to stop the inevitable meltdown. Now it is, I fear, only a question of how big a disaster it will be.

A bill to slow down the rollout of the Health and Human Services Commission's Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System, known as TIERS, has died in a House committee, says sponsor Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin. TIERS, which integrates the enrollment of recipients into various welfare programs, has limped along in an almost two-year trial run in the Austin-San Marcos area, and Dukes fears a full rollout could be disastrous for those enrolled in welfare programs. Problems with a similar type of software program in Colorado resulted in people stranded without benefits, an alarming prospect for those in an agency working with the state's poorest residents. Dukes wanted stringent testing of TIERS, under a full caseload, before it was rolled out in welfare offices across the state. The rollout has been delayed twice already. The HHSC, for its part, promises not to bring out the software before it is fully tested, but Dukes is not worried about the agency. She's worried about lawmakers, who may see the $400 million saved under the new integrated eligibility software as a deal too good to turn down as they finalize the state's budget. – K.R.

My Republican friends in Austin, for whom I voted, are squandering the opportunities that their election gains have given them. I regret to say that they seem to be doing it for the benefit of a few corporations, and probably because they are somehow getting benefits (or anticipating them) from those same companies, and don't really want to be confused with the facts or reason.

Republicans had best think twice if they think they have a lock on politics in Texas. If they make a mess of the Welfare system in this state, as they seem intent on doing, they will pay a price, and that price will be as high as the disaster is big. About the time the Governor will begin running for re-election, thing should be really hitting the fan.

Remember, most folks don’t vote for Republicans because they are Republicans, but because they are pro-family values. If you destroy the Social Service system in Texas to benefit yourselves and your friends, you will have little credibility on those issues. If the Democrats are smart, they will start running pro-life candidates who are against illegal immigration, and if they do, they will be swept to power faster than the Republicans can say “Herbert Hoover.”