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New system causes delay in food stamps

January 25, 2013 1:42:51 PM PST
A Cumberland County mother says she is worried for her family.

Juanita Thomas has fallen on tough times and has had to turn to the Cumberland County Department of Social Services for help. She has relied on food stamps, but this month no money was put on her EBT card.

"Okay. What can I feed my children?" Juanita said.

It has become a daily question she has asked herself for almost a month now.

Her pantry is bare and there isn't much in her refrigerator and freezer either to feed her four children.

"They've been without breakfast and dinner," Juanita said. "It's sad as a mom that you cannot feed your child. I can't describe it. It's just something that kills you."

Juanita tried to get help by calling social services, but unfortunately saw no results.

"I'm not getting assistance. I've been trying to call the lead caseworker, as well as the director. I have physically went down to the Department of Social Services, no assistance whatsoever. They tell me, 'Oh, we're going to have your caseworker call you.' I have yet to get a call from anyone," Juanita said.

With no answers, Juanita was at a loss.

"I want to break down and cry. But I have to be strong. And I have to do what I'm capable of doing until I can get assistance. And right now, I can't do anything. This is my last resort, to call the Troubleshooter, to see if they can get to the bottom of it, to see what's going on," Juanita said.

I reached out to the director of the Cumberland County DSS. She said that the state is in the process of implementing a new automated eligibility system, and with any new system they have faced challenges that have caused some delay in benefits.

She added that they are partnering with the state to get this resolved and they have hired temporary employees and worked overtime to reduce the backlog. She said they have improved from delays lasting several weeks to an average delay of three days.

She also said that while they have faced issues with the new system and workloads, unfortunately some of the delays are due to recipients failing to get the required information needed to process their claims in a timely manner.

As for Juanita, a rep from the Cumberland County DSS got in touch with her, and Juanita got the welcome news that she now has her benefits to buy food for her family.

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