The state Department of Social Services has extended cash assistance benefits to people at risk of losing them this month, a protective measure meant to ensure that people don’t wrongly lose their benefits as the department grapples with problems related to a major change in how it handles paperwork.

The department announced last week that it would extend medical and food benefits to about 15,500 poor households. Since then, DSS also applied the extension to people receiving Temporary Family Assistance, State Administered General Assistance, and money through the State Supplement program for people who are aged, blind or have a disability.

As part of a “modernization” effort, DSS now routes all paperwork it gets to a state contractor, Scan-Optics, which scans the documents into the department’s computer system. That’s supposed to allow DSS workers all over the state to access and work on clients’ files.

But DSS Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said last week that there’s a backlog in scanning, and some documents that have made it into the department’s computer system haven’t been routed properly and aren’t in clients’ files. He said Scan-Optics has expanded its staff and is expected to clear the backlog by the end of this week.    

The benefits extension applies to people who needed to renew their eligibility for the programs by Sept. 1. It’s temporary, meaning that people will need to submit their renewal forms if they haven’t yet.

The extension affects about 450 households receive Temporary Family Assistance and about 175 receiving State Administered General Assistance, DSS spokesman David Dearborn said. The number of affected household receiving the state supplement wasn’t immediately available.

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Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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