Reports: Kansas computer system outage preventing payment of welfare benefits

? The Kansas Department for Children and Families has suffered a statewide computer system failure that is preventing the agency from paying welfare benefits, processing new applications or processing reports of abuse and neglect, according to reports on social media.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, a union that represents workers in the agency, first reported the outage in a series of Twitter posts Monday. He said the network failure began sometime Sunday, but workers who were called in to try to resolve the problem were sent home.

“Lobby staff are seeing clients and filling out paper templates. DCF cannot work client’s cases until computer systems are back up,” Choromanski posted on KOSE’s official Twitter account.

“All computer systems down statewide since Sunday since staff working overtime was told to go home,” he said in a later post.

Late Monday, DCF officials confirmed the computer outage, saying it affected multiple systems used by multiple state agencies.

“While the systems are unavailable, we continue to process welfare benefits applications, and we continue to respond to reports of child abuse and neglect,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said in a statement posted on the agency’s Facebook page. “However, due to the email and web systems being unavailable, we ask that all reports of abuse and neglect be made by phone, at this time.”

“Kansas Protection Report Center staff is promptly returning calls, taking reports, and those considered high priority are being addressed immediately,” her statement continued. “As always, the KPRC is not a first-responder service. Immediate concerns of abuse or neglect should be reported by calling 911.”

The reported breakdown is occurring one week before DCF is scheduled to migrate its entire application and eligibility system from a 1980s-era “legacy” mainframe computer system to a new, web-based portal called the Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System, or KEES.

During that transition, Choromanski said, DCF will effectively “go dark” for about a week. During that time, people will still be able to apply for benefits, he said, but nothing will be processed until the conversion to the new system is complete.

In an email to reporters dated Aug. 7, Choromanski said the DCF office in Wichita is already experiencing a severe backlog in processing applications, with some people waiting as long as 6.5 hours to meet with a caseworker because staff in the office have been training to learn how to use the new KEES system.

Gilmore said the current computer outage is not related to the upcoming migration to KEES.