Utah eREP merges welfare systems

Utah has launched a Web site that provides a single resource for families and individuals needing help with services such as food, clothing, housing and child care as the first component of the state's eREP (Electronic Resource and Eligibility Product) revamp of eligibility programs.

Utah Cares (http://utahcares.utah.gov/ereppub/en/ScreenReferralHomePage.do?) provides access to more than 2,000 service providers -- either state-sanctioned if the individual or family proves eligible for government programs or community-based if eligibility is denied. eREP consolidates about six separate agency systems that have handled government welfare programs.

The new system -- which is being developed by state government staff, IBM Corp. and Ireland-based Curam Software -- includes a rules engine to automate a process that previously depended on state agency employees memorizing eligibility rules. Until now, many state workers had to be taught how to use an antiquated mainframe and green-screen system in order to process eligibility claims, said John Sweeney, product manager for the eREP project. And even then they still had to memorize the rules.

The next addition to eREP will be a component to help state workers with policies and procedures that they can access through a more modern, Web-based point-and-click system, he said.

Utah Cares is an excellent way for people to begin looking for help, Sweeney said. The system will become more capable as other eREP components are added. An addition for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and child care programs will be developed next and tested in 2004 with plans for a June 2005 launch, he said.

The total cost of the multiyear eREP program has been estimated at around $50 million.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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