Updated March 1, 2018
OHIO BENEFITS PILOT
For the first time since 2013, three of Ohio’s core work support programs – Medicaid, Food Assistance (SNAP), and Cash Assistance (OWF) – are one step closer to being re-integrated into a single eligibility.
- New eligibility system being piloted in five counties will roll out to remaining 83 counties in July 2018
- During phase one, only new SNAP/OWF applications who do not already have an open case in CRIS-E are processed in Ohio Benefits.
- In phase two, all active or pending SNAP/OWF cases from CRIS-E will be converted to Ohio Benefits
- SNAP/OWF recipients who also receive Medicaid will have two case numbers for the household. SNAP/OWF and Medicaid cases will not be merged.
- Data conversion could lead to disruption for existing program participants, and many will receive new notices from Ohio Benefits that could cause confusion.
In November 2017, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) launched a five-county pilot to transition Food Assistance (SNAP) and Cash Assistance (OWF) caseloads from CRIS-E, to Ohio Benefits, the state’s new, web-based system. Ohio Benefits currently manages Medicaid cases. The five pilot counties — Summit, Clark, Licking, Fairfield, and Warren — have provided critical testing ground for the new system.
The Center for Community Solutions, in partnership with the Legal Aid Societies of Columbus and Greater Cincinnati, has been closely monitoring the design and implementation of the Ohio Benefits pilot in order to (1) understand how this technology overhaul will impact low-income residents who depend on these critical work support programs and (2) ensure community stakeholders in pilot counties are well-informed about the technology changes. In October, Community Solutions co-hosted a Modernization Forum in Summit County where nearly 100 community stakeholders learned about the pilot and had the opportunity to raise questions and concerns with state and county leaders.
After some initial delays, the Ohio Benefits pilot successfully launched on Monday, November 6, 2017 for new (“intake”) cases only, to avoid any disruptions for existing benefit recipients. This means Ohio Benefits is only processing new applications for individuals requesting SNAP/OWF who do not already have an open case in CRIS-E. All other SNAP/OWF cases, including renewals, will continue to be managed in CRIS-E until the second phase of the pilot.
Leaders in pilot counties reported a fairly smooth transition, thanks to a great deal of on-site help from the Ohio Benefits project team, who quickly responded to identified glitches. Since the initial launch, the project team has executed several system updates (called “hot fixes”) for critical defects, while “workarounds” have been developed for lower priority bugs that will be resolved in future updates. As of December 1, 2017, the Ohio Benefits project team reported that 204 of the 312 known defects would be resolved in the next system update, leaving 124 known defects in the backlog.
As of February 2, across the five pilot counties, 7,705 SNAP cases and 214 OWF cases have been approved in Ohio Benefits.  Advocates are awaiting additional data from ODJFS to understand how initial application approval and denial rates, including for Expedited SNAP, compare to previous periods in these counties.
Next Step: Conversion
The second phase of the pilot is to convert all active or pending SNAP/OWF cases from CRIS-E to Ohio Benefits in the five pilot counties. This will include nearly 134,000 individual recipients, more than half of whom live in Summit County. Although originally scheduled for February 2018, this conversion is now scheduled to occur from March 21 through March 26. Pilot counties will be unable to process cases in either CRIS-E or Ohio Benefits on March 22 or March 23.
The core task of conversion is to transfer the most up-to-date client data from CRIS-E to Ohio Benefits to ensure seamless continuation of SNAP and OWF benefits. For SNAP/OWF recipients who also receive Medicaid, the conversion will result in two case numbers for the household – one for SNAP/OWF and another for Medicaid. SNAP/OWF and Medicaid cases will not be “merged” during this process. See below for a helpful visual explaining the conversion process.
Because these cases will not be merged, individuals connected to all three work support programs will begin receiving two sets of notices (e.g. for renewals or fair hearings) once all case data has been transferred to the Ohio Benefits system.
Although not anticipated, the data conversion process could lead to some disruption for existing program participants, and many will receive new notices from the Ohio Benefits system that could cause confusion. Human service organizations, and other community stakeholders in the pilot counties, can help resolve any issues by being in close communication with county JFS liaisons and/or their local Legal Aid office.
After the March data conversion, the pilot will continue for approximately three months, to continue refining processes and resolving technical glitches. In July 2018, the project is expected to rollout to Ohio’s remaining 83 counties, including the three largest – Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Hamilton. These 83 counties are currently going through various stages of readiness training, and many are updating their internal business processes to prepare for the shift from CRIS-E to Ohio Benefits. Community Solutions will provide another update when more information about the statewide rollout of Ohio Benefits is available.
Community Solutions believes that external stakeholders – particularly case managers and public benefits application assisters at a wide variety of human service organizations – have an important role to play in ensuring that the transition from CRIS-E to Ohio Benefits is as smooth as possible for customers. Community Solutions encourages county Departments of Job and Family Services to communicate with their local community stakeholders to inform them of the upcoming changes and solicit their help in assisting individuals and families who depend on these critical work support programs. Wherever possible, Community Solutions is happy to help make these local connections and facilitate a community engagement process, as we are currently doing in Summit and Cuyahoga Counties.
Community Solutions will continue to monitor the Ohio Benefits pilot and make recommendations to state, county, and project team leaders before the statewide rollout ensues. To receive ongoing updates, sign up for our mailing list here.
 January 10, 2018 County Readiness Deck. Available at http://ohiobenefitsproject.ohio.gov/Portals/0/PDFs/January_10_2018_Readiness_Call.pdf.
 February 7, 2018 County Readiness Deck. Available at http://ohiobenefitsproject.ohio.gov/Portals/0/PDFs/February_7_2018_County_Readiness_Call.pdf
 Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Public Assistance Monthly Statistics Report, November 2017. Available at http://jfs.ohio.gov/pams/PAM-2017-REPORTS/PAMSNovember_2017_01_10_2018.stm.
 December 20, 2017 County Readiness Deck. Available at http://ohiobenefitsproject.ohio.gov/Portals/0/PDFs/December_20_2017_Readiness_Call.pdf