April 24, 2015—The Office of Legislative Audits (OLA) in Maryland recently stated that, after an audit of the Family Investment Administration (FIA), several social services agencies were missing information critical to determining household benefit eligibility and avoiding fraud. The Energy Assistance Program was among the list of social service programs named. The FIA oversees the energy assistance program, as well as the Temporary Disability Assistance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Temporary Cash Assistance Program. These programs are administered by 24 local social services departments across the state.
In the audit, which covered the time period of July 2010 to November 2013, auditors found that, of the ten applications reviewed for the audit of the energy assistance program, there were several problems. Five of the 10 applications had no identification or residence confirmation on file; two had no proof of utilities, such as a current billing statement; four lacked the required supervisor's signature proving that the application had been reviewed for program eligibility; and two of the applications were approved several days after the state plan's 45-day requirement for processing applications.
To address these problems, the Department of Human Resources, the LIHEAP grantee, expanded access to their document imaging system to include the local administering agencies (LAAs) to help create a searchable, electronic set of case files. This database, the department states, will help improve efficiency and help avoid redundant requests for identification and other verifications, as well as reduce the risk of losing paper documentation.
Verification documents, such as Social Security cards, will be a permanent part of the database and will be entered into the database through the document imaging system. Each case file will be updated as households renew applications throughout the year with new utility bills at each application. The FIA has also developed their "Local Processing Time Report" to help the LAAs manage application timeliness, in addition to increasing staff levels at the LAAs that received the highest volume of applications during the busiest six months of the year.
Sources: Department of Human Resources Family Investment Administration Audit Report, Media Sources