Governor recommends funding to replace aging welfare office phones
By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jan 18, 2013
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Getting help at Nevada welfare offices could soon become easier.
After months of complaints about busy signals and long hold times, Action News has learned the governor's office is recommending funding to replace the agency's old phone system.
"I know this system is not working," said Lyn Williams, who said she has tried for a week to reach the office by phone.
Williams said she relies on food stamps while she looks for work. In December, Williams said she had a problem with her account; she was able to reach the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services by phone during the first week of January, but hasn't gotten past the automated phone system since then.
"Whatever it takes, they need to do something to take care of people in need," said Williams.
Action News started investigating complaints from food stamp recipients in August, 2012. Our investigation revealed the agency's phone system is up to ten years old and struggles to handle up to four million calls a year.
Those problems may end if Gov. Brian Sandoval's budget recommendations get through the state legislature. The governor offered highlights of his budget during the state of the state address Wednesday night.
Sandoval is recommending $2.1 million between 2013 and 2014 to replace the welfare office's aging phone system, according to the governor's proposal available through the state budget division. The funding would go towards replacement of a voice response unit for customer service, telephone switches in seven offices, 168 phones and ten conferences phones, according to the proposed budget.
The welfare office is cautiously optimistic lawmakers will approve funding during the upcoming session, said spokeswoman Miki Allard in a telephone interview.
"Everything has been tight over the last several years due to the economic recession," said Allard, noting the agency wanted the funding over the last two budget cycles.
The funding must first be approved by state lawmakers. If approved, Allard said purchasing and installing a new system could take up to a year.