Private bid threatens Texas social services

Commentary

SAN ANTONIO — The Texas Legislature passed HB 2292 in 2003, which, 150 amendments later, threatens to destroy vital health and human services such as food stamps, Medicaid and help for the elderly.

The bill’s initial impact took the form of the closing of many social service offices, making it extremely difficult for people to apply for these programs. The Texas State Employees Union is fighting hard to keep these offices open.

Soon, 2,900 social workers will be laid off, and the only way a person can be certified or recertified to receive such services will be via the Internet (as we know, most poor people do not have computers) or by accessing a complicated telephone call-in system which will certify eligibility via computer, without human interaction.

Some no doubt believe the new methods will save money because people will become so discouraged they will not apply!

The purported purpose of this bill, according to its backers, was “to save the state money and not raise taxes.” It’s clear they want this to be done on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, the disabled and the elderly.

Bids were accepted to set up the call center and it appears that an offshore company is about to be given the $899 million contract. The Bermuda-based company is called Accenture, formerly known as Arthur Anderson Consulting of Enron scandal fame.

Texas supporters of social services for working and poor people should call their state legislators and urge them to not allow Accenture to steal $899 million from the people of our state. Tell them to stop the layoff of 2,900 social workers and to preserve a human touch in our social service system.

You can reach your legislators by going to www.capitol.state.tx.us and clicking on “Who represents me?” Phone and other contact information will be found easily.