Welfare recipients worry DHS will lose personal touch - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Welfare recipients worry DHS will lose personal touch

Christian Catchcart Christian Catchcart
Sara Hoke-Welle Sara Hoke-Welle
Lillian Koller Lillian Koller

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -- The Department of Human Services Kalihi Unit is one of 31 the state's shutting down as DHS switches to an on-line and over-the-phone application system.

"I don't see how we're going to survive without them," said a client who asked to be identified only by her first name, Tori..

Her feeling is the feeling of most DHS clients we spoke with Tuesday, 24 hours after the department announced it's modernizing its public benefits application process.

Christian Cathcart gets medical and food stamp assistance. He worries DHS is losing the human touch.

"The eye contact shows what a person is like, how they're doing. Do they really need this?" he said.

"I have a good worker," client Sara Hoke-Welle said. "She explains everything step by step. What we need to do. What we need to bring in in order to get whatever we need.."

DHS said the new system with two processing centers will speed up the application process.

"We will expect to see much more integrity and accuracy in the system," director Lillian Koller said.

Koller said the streamlining will save taxpayers $8 million a year.

DHS will lay off 228 employees. Some in the Kalihi Unit have received their notices.

Meantime, word is spreading to clients that things are changing..

"It's a friendly face that you're not going to have on a phone or a computer. You're just not going to have it," Tori said.

But Koller said the new system will not be automated and callers will speak to DHS personnel.

She said people who still want in-person help with their benefits applications can get it at various offices around the state and through contracted providers.

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