Let’s do the numbers! As official master of the obvious, I’d like to point out, for the first time since December 2014, the total number of applications out of timeframes has dropped when compared to the prior week.
Way to go team! The Commissioner’s immediate response to news was to voice her gratitude for the incredible people doing the work that made the difference. So, on behalf of Val, Quyana caknek! Thank you very much!
Pushing through this large workload must seem like a Sisyphean endeavor. However, unlike Sisyphus, doomed to eternity in Hades, when we find ourselves going through H-E-double hockey sticks, we don’t stop. We keep moving forward!
We can’t stop, because the work done by DPA is so meaningful for so many. It has purpose that motivates us to do the right thing. Every action taken and every conversation imbued with compassion and delivered with respect makes a difference to those we help whether they are clients or co-workers. I believe this sense of purpose is one of the things that inspire us to do the work. It is certainly one stimulus for the more than 300 DPA staff and helpers from other divisions who volunteered for over 100,000 hours of overtime between January and March.
Thank you all for your diligence and perseverance addressing our current workload challenge. Every day the collective effort of field staff, folks from other DPA sections, and our volunteers from other divisions is making a difference.
This month we have seen a drop in the number of out of time frame applications for every program except Medicaid. Medicaid numbers continue to rise as we get caught up registering Medicaid applications received predominately from account transfers and the self-service portal. Of the almost 4,500 unregistered Medicaid applications in the queue in February, fewer than 2,000 remain to be processed. A concerted effort to complete these registrations will be initiated shortly and will likely result in additional bumps in the number of aged Medicaid applications.
Last week we saw a jump in the backlog over the preceding week and yet another bump this week. Do not despair or be disheartened! The work that ensures individuals and families get the services and support they need is still getting done. Last month, field staff completed almost 24,000 case actions (not including actions related to reports of change or pending a case for more information). The tremendous effort of field staff and our volunteers from other sections and divisions is making a difference that is not reflected in the perturbations of the backlog.
Well, it looks like the curve we were turning last week turned out to be a switchback. The jump in our backlog this week is related to the batch of stale account transfers that were recently registered. Some of the transfers were reports of change and others were referrals for service. It is always difficult to absorb a large batch of work like the recent one, especially when some of the work might already be out of time frames. Fortunately, everyone’s efforts over the preceding week kept the backlog from growing even more.
Despite another slight uptick in the total applications over 30 days, progress is being made. Over 2,100 actions were completed during protected time last week. The 20,666 actions taken on applications last month was another great effort to meet immediate needs and to address the aged applications. Support units continue to pitch in with SD&T registering applications and working cases and SysOps also helping to register applications and work returned mail. Central Office staff are also handling returned mail and assisting at the JDO. What a team!
Even as it looks like we are beginning to turn the corner, there might be another bump in the road when another unanticipated batch of Marketplace account transfers is registered. It’s unclear whether or not these are recent account transfers or ones that could add to the backlog.
As predicted, there has been another uptick in the backlog since last week. As mentioned previously, this appears to be a function of our focus on registering of the out of date applications and account transfers, and the aging of more recently received applications as well as factors we are still assessing. On a positive note, with open-enrollment closed we should see some relief from the numerous account transfers we’ve been receiving.
Good news! This is the first week that indicates a positive trend in addressing the backlog. While the difference is not huge, it is encouraging. Given the tremendous level of effort and the advent of protected work times for staff, we can anticipate more progress in the next few weeks.
Bear in mind that there may still be applications or account transfers that were received over 30 days ago and have yet to be registered. It is also likely that we have more current applications that are on the cusp of becoming out of timeframes. So don’t be discouraged by slippage in the numbers. Great work is being done by all. The fact that last month staff made over 20,000 eligibility determinations on applications in clear evidence of the great work done every day by DPA! Hip-Hip-Hurrah!
Each year, the Division of Public Assistance provides direct services and benefits to more than 200,000 Alaskans. Offices can receive up to 10,000 initial applications and renewals each month. IN addition, each month Field Offices across the state also receive innumerable reports of change, returned mail, and correspondence from clients and partner agencies correspondence. Under any circumstance this is a monumental body of work.
Historically, we have done an outstanding job managing this staggering volume of work. We also faced periods where we have been confronted large backlogs of work. One challenge many of you may remember was the heavy lifting required years ago to process thousands of DKC applications out of timeframes successfully. We encountered and conquered another enormous challenge when problems with the Heating Assistance System stalled work. Again, just a few short years ago, we were inundated with a surge of applications during the “Great Recession.” We overcame all of these trials despite the difficulties and the Division was acknowledged by both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Systems and the Food and Nutrition Services for outstanding performance. Although there are a host of reasons contributing to our current situation, I am confident that DPA will rise to the challenge and resume our position as one of the best, if not the best, Public Assistance agency in the nation.
Our Research and Analysis team has been working to compile and tabulate information about the backlog of work that can help illustrate both the extent of the challenge and our progress in addressing the backlog. This has not been an easy task. Management information reports were, quite frankly, something of an afterthought when EIS was created. At this point ARIES management reports are still in a development stage. Consequently, a great deal of effort is needed to combine data from both systems into documents that can capture the outstanding body of work. What follows are several representations of the backlog of work.
Field Services Managers are hearing numerous feedback from staff statewide about First Contact Resolution (FCR). Staff are seeing the benefits and the reports are positive.