Old phone system blamed for delays at welfare office

Michael Lopardi

Old phone system blamed for delays at welfare office

CREATED Dec. 7, 2012
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Recipients of food stamp benefits said they are fed up with the welfare office's phone system.
 
Joyce Smith of Las Vegas said she started calling on Monday after she did not receive her monthly benefits for December. Smith said she was able to reach a representative by phone on Monday, but not in the four following days. Sometimes, Smith said she is placed on hold through an automated system; other times, she reaches a busy signal.
 
"I mean, having a phone to your ear for hours is a killer," Smith said. "It means I can't do anything else; I have to be there with that phone."
 
Action News first reported on the phone system concerns in August. We tried calling several Las Vegas area welfare offices on Thursday only to reach busy signals or get tied up in the automated system. On Friday, we tried twice but received a busy signal.
 
"Our phone system is over ten years old," said Miki Allard, staff specialist with the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services. "It is not adequate to meet the volume of calls that we are receiving at this time. And the volume of calls has significantly increased over the past couple years."
 
The agency recieves up to four million calls a year, Allard said. A replacement system is estimated to cost about $2 million, she said. The welfare office has requested funding for a new system in the last two budget cycles but did not receive the money, Allard said.
 
The office understands the frustration, Allard said. In fact, the system is so old the technology is no longer supported by manufacturers.
 
The welfare office recommends participants call after the first week of the month, when things aren't as busy. If participants need to reach someone right away, they should consider visiting a local office, Allard said.
 
Smith said she simply wants someone to answer to get her problem corrected.

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