Welfare Changes on the Way

By: Jennifer Cavazos
By: Jennifer Cavazos

Akeatha Washington is a single mother of three and relies on welfare to get by.

"Where would I be if I didn't have nothing to fall back on? I don't know," says Washington.

But she and others who receive benefits from the state could see some changes soon. The Department of Heath and Human Services is upgrading their system to the Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign, or TIER system.

The application process will be available online or over the phone, no longer in person in some communities.

Case workers see 10 to 14 clients a day. Most of them don't own a computer or a car. Some don't even have a telephone. So is keeping up technology really worth it?

"They're still working out those problems that they have as to how are we going to serve these clients that are the furthest away," says Dalia Yanez, Eligibility Services Supervisor of the Brazos Valley office.

"They should think about the effect on these people, that don't have transportation that don't have phone and don't really have family," says Washington.

More than 10,000 clients are seen in the Brazos Valley every year. The new system will include shutting down about 100 offices statewide, yet no decisions on which offices will be closed have been made.

"We're not given a lot of information. Its very vague. We don't know what's coming or how soon," says Yanez.

The cutbacks could be as soon as the end of the year, cutting almost half of the state's welfare employees, but the staff is remaining loyal to the agency and their clients.

There will be three call centers to handle welfare inquiries. Two will be in Texas, and one out of state. Yanez says these changes could be too much for their clients to handle.

"Our clients live month by month, they don't know they don't worry about next month. They're not sure of what's going to happen, because they don't hear a lot of it," says Yanez.

A pilot program of TIER is being tested in Austin before it’s released to other offices.


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