Welfare and child support should see computer improvement Monday

The first in a series of computer upgrades should speed up the state Welfare Division's handling of child support issues by Monday morning.

The state's Department of Information technology is taking the R-36 system down Sunday night for an upgrade that will expand memory in the mainframe computer that handles those programs and greatly boost its speed.

"Users should notice something Monday morning when they come back to work," said information director Terry Savage.

Once that is done, he said the second mainframe, called the R-25, will get its innards upgraded Wednesday night.

The upgrades, approved as emergency needs by Gov. Kenny Guinn, will cost the state just over $2 million.

Savage told lawmakers when he announced the planned upgrades that one of the two mainframes was "approaching meltdown" and that the other would soon follow if they didn't act.

Welfare Administrator Mike Wildon said his staff has high hopes for the R-36 upgrade.

"They're telling us it'll scream. I hope so."

He said the system now is "bogged down" by growing demand, causing frustration for staff and delays in processing cases for thousands of clients.

"The problem is response time," he said. "We've got 1,400 to 1,500 users and they're distressing the capacity of the system."

Those users include some 900 welfare workers and more than 500 child support staffers in the 17 county district attorney's offices.

The R-25 handles not only the Department of Motor Vehicles and Genesis, the controversial computer system that had bogged down the DMV, but also the state's executive budget system. It will be upgraded Wednesday night.

While he said Genesis will run better once the box is expanded, Savage said the big difference will be felt by those using the budget system.

"They'll see a huge change," he said.

Agencies have complained bitterly over the past month about the budget system, saying waits upwards of 20 minutes for a command to process were common.

"They're experiencing 20-minute delays because it's gotten better," said Savage. "It was worse two weeks ago."

Director of Administration Perry Comeaux said the computer upgrade is vital to his analysts who must prepare and put together the state budget for 2001-2.

"The governor needs the budget information as quickly as possible so he can make some decisions," said Comeaux.

The computer logjam prevented many agencies from inputing their budgets electronically. To meet this past week's statutory deadline for submitting their budgets, he said, they had to send them to the Budget Division in Microsoft Excel format or, in some cases, on paper.

Comeaux said now his office is trying to convert those files and transfer them into the budget system. Then, he said, the "number crunching" begins to put all the agency requests together and give Gov. Guinn totals on what the agencies are requesting.

Savage said DMV will also see some improvement but that he doesn't think that system has been suffering as badly as the budget system. Overall, he said all agencies using the two systems will benefit.


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