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February 7, 2023

Los Angeles Might Outsource Its 211 Phone Service to Deloitte and People Are Not Happy

Deloitte Consulting might be picking up a new client: the downtrodden of Los Angeles County. ABC7 reports:

Los Angeles County’s nonprofit “211LA” hotline to health, human and social services is on the verge of being turned over to a private company, pending a vote by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors are slated to vote Tuesday on whether or not to transfer control of the phone service to Deloitte Consulting, which would get a seven-year, $67.25 million contract to run it. The deal would also include an additional $20 million to help pay for the transfer from its current management.

Current employees of 211LA staged a rally outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration this week, urging supervisors “to shoot down the plan to have a for-profit company run the system.” A for-profit company with a terrible track record of managing public services.

Individuals in Florida and California who found themselves out of a job during the early months of the pandemic have nothing good to say about Deloitte’s handling of their states’ unemployment systems. Deloitte earned up to $55 million for running California’s unemployment call center; the department failed to answer over 73 million calls to its call centers at the peak of pandemic unemployment. Further south, Deloitte denies issues with Florida’s unemployment system — which they built prior to the pandemic — are their fault.

They also denied key findings in a state inspector general report released last week. The report found that on the date before CONNECT went live in October 2013, the system had 14 “fatal” defects, although the state’s contract with the company allowed for none. The Deloitte executives said Monday that it wasn’t true, and that there was a “misinterpretation” of internal documents.

“By my professional opinion, those were not fatal defects. Those were cosmetic,” said Deloitte principal Scott Malm at a March 2021 hearing regarding the meltdown of Florida’s unemployment system.

Back to LA:

“We’re part of the safety net,” said 211LA’s Executive Director Maribel Marin. “You can’t just replace us like you replace a regular vendor. We are not a regular vendor. We are part of this community.”

211LA has been serving county residents for the past 41 years, providing telephone-based information on local programs that span from pandemic assistance, to food resources, to how to safely surrender a baby. Supporters say contracting out to a private company will create a less-efficient service.

“This is a wholesale displacement of a trusted and integrated safety-net provider in favor of the false promise of big tech doing it better and cheaper,” said Marin.

The board of supervisors said in a statement a reassessment of the 211LA service was “overdue” and that an outside consultant concluded that the county was using “20th century technology to address 21st century social challenges.”

The supervisors add that complaints about automation problems are pure misinformation, adding that the Deloitte contract will hire more live agents than are currently employed, reduce the waiting time for callers and offer digital options for people who prefer that mode. reassessment of the 211LA service was “overdue,” and that an outside consultant concluded that the county was using “20th century technology to address 21st century social challenges.”

The supervisors add that complaints about automation problems are pure misinformation, adding that the Deloitte contract will hire more live agents than are currently employed, reduce the waiting time for callers and offer digital options for people who prefer that mode.

Ah, “misinformation.” Where have we seen that before…

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