Thousands of people in the state are struggling to find food because their applications are tied up in the state's system. The state's food stamp program transitioned to an electronic system called N.C. Fast last October. A backlog began in July and has snowballed until now.
"This was a monumental undertaking. It's not easy, and we're aware of that fact that we have counties that are behind," said State Social Services Director Wayne Black. "People need their benefits and that's our number one goal right now, to get the food to the people that need it."
Black said county workers were adjusting to the new system and its glitches in July. The system received an upgrade over the weekend, and when people got back to work on Monday the process jammed. He said topical software glitches caused slowdowns. Furthermore, county workers trying to learn the new system slowed it down further.
"We expected they would create some challenges, did we anticipate everything, you probably never do with something as big as this," Black said.
The state is in the process of hiring 160 new people to go out and help counties. It also allowed counties to send in its backlogged food stamp applications to the state office.
"Our goal is to help the counties and to help the folks that need the food stamps benefits to get them on the card," Black said.
A month ago, 64 out of 100 counties were processing new applications. At their normal rate now, the state says 96 of the 100 counties are processing at their normal rate. But Black says that normal rate is still too slow and he hopes the new N.C. Fast system will help speed up the process.
"Our goal is to get benefits not in 30 days. If they have their documentation, our goal is to get those benefits the same day when they walk out the door and if not, we mean to do it in two or three days or a week," Black said.