Oklahoma child care payments go electronic

Oklahoma's new child care payment system will be the first fully automated

statewide system of its kind when all 77 counties are brought online by

next spring, state officials and the contractor for the program say.

The Department of Human Services expects the electronic benefits transfer

system — Access Oklahoma Day Care — will not only cut administrative costs

but also improve the speed and accuracy of subsidies paid to child care

providers.

"We've had a very paper-laden, manually intensive, typically government

process" that forced providers to wait as long as six weeks to receive some

payments, spokesman George Johnson said. "Now we'll be paying on a weekly

basis, with a two-week lag."

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s IMS subsidiary developed the software and electronic

point-of-sale devices for use in 4,500 day-care centers and homes. Parents

who qualify for state and federal assistance will use a card to check their

children in and out of a child care facility. The system is designed to

monitor attendance in real time and shorten the time to calculate payments.

Getting providers to adjust to the new system will be a big part of

the challenge, Johnson said. "You're causing change in a system that people

have been used to for more than 30 years," he said.

The state will pay Lockheed Martin IMS $5.1 million for items ranging

from development to full implementation. The company will receive a $5.24

monthly administrative fee for each child enrolled in the subsidy program,

company and state officials said.

"Our administrative costs will go down as Lockheed Martin IMS takes

what they've learned from us and markets it to other states to build their

systems," Johnson said.

DHS replaced public assistance checks and food stamps with electronically

coded debit cards in 1997. Lockheed Martin IMS modified those systems for

the new program.

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