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Computer System Behind Schedule, Over Budget

Computer System Behind Schedule, Over Budget



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A new computer system to manage Utah welfare benefits is months behind schedule and more than $8 million over budget.

Lawmakers are unhappy, but a state official said it's tricky to project cost and schedules for large projects like the Electronic Resource Eligibility Product, or eREP.

"Let's make sure, double sure, that when this goes live we put the appropriate testing, training and implementation processes in place so the people who depend on the benefits don't suffer," said Ken Peterson, chief operating officer for the Utah Department of Technology Services.

The state has been working on the computer system since 2002. It will determine welfare eligibility, track an array of payments across three state departments and provide food stamps, child-care subsidies and health insurance for children, among other programs.

But it probably won't be fully ready until 2009. The projected cost of nearly $71 million has already gone up by nearly 10 percent.

Most of the money for the system comes from the federal government, but Utah taxpayers will likely pay as much as half of the overrun.

"It's hard to say 'no' because you hate to see something ended without finishing it," state Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said. "We'd like to see it done, and we'd like to see it done within the budget, but we are committed to see it through."

The first benefits under the new computer system likely will be issued in November 2008. From January to March 2009, the system will be phased-in at other offices.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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