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Governor's office steps in to ease welfare phone delays

Michael Lopardi

Governor's office steps in to ease welfare phone delays

CREATED Dec. 11, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Busy signals and long hold times are only two of the problems people are experiencing as they try to contact Las Vegas area welfare offices. Now the governor's office is stepping in.

Action News first started looking into complaints about the phone system in August. With the tough economic times, many people rely on food stamps. For some, the phone is the only way to contact the welfare office.

Joyce Smith of Las Vegas said she never received her benefits for December, despite prior approval. Smith was able to reach a representative last Monday, but the problem wasn't fixed. She said she has been phoning the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services' Belrose office every business day since last Tuesday, with no luck.

"It didn't even go to a busy, or a ring, it just cut off," Smith said after calling Tuesday.

We took the issue to Governor Brian Sandoval's office. In an emailed statement, press secretary Mary-Sarah Kinner said the governor is aware of the problem.

"The Governor's Office is working with the department of Health and Human Services to institute temporary measures to help alleviate delays," said Kinner.

The governor's office has not said exactly which type of changes might happen or when.

Nevada's welfare offices receive up to four million calls a year, spokeswoman Miki Allard told Action News last week. Allard said the delays are tied to a phone system that is more than ten years old. The agency requested funding for a new system in the last two budget cycles but the money wasn't approved, Allard said in a telephone interview.

"Anything that his office can do to help people get through to these phones is a good thing," Smith said. "I'll believe it when I see it."