Food stamp problems lead some to call for Aldona Wos' resignation

The administrator says federal funds to administer the program could soon be lost for the state without improvements.
January 10, 2014 10:56:18 AM PST
There are calls for the head of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to resign over the department's latest stumble.

The federal government is threatening to pull funding from the troubled North Carolina food stamp program, which is known as NCFAST.

Now, members of the Legislative Black Caucus are calling for the Aldona Wos' resignation.

"They've failed us," said State Sen. Floyd McKissick, (D) Durham.

McKissick is hammering Wos and her staff over the department's latest bombshell which first came to light last month in a federal letter.

"Here we are, Dec. 11 they had this information in from the federal government saying we could be decertified," said McKissick.

The letter stated that the USDA might pull funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program because the state failed to provide a detailed corrective action plan to address delays plaguing food stamp disbursements.

"That ain't what we were told. We were told this stuff was fixed," said McKissick. "There weren't problems anymore. You lose credibility."

The problems began last summer when DHHS implemented NCFAST, which is a statewide computer system that was supposed to simplify and speed up the process. However, the program has created a backlog, forcing tens of thousands of recipients to go several months without benefits, and the complications continue.

"We've seen nothing but one problem after another," said McKissick.

But North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory continues to back his health secretary - his spokesperson calling the latest concerns a "gimmick."

"This letter is almost a month old, and DHHS has already taken corrective action and continues to work with the USDA on the issues raised. The governor has confidence that Secretary Wos and her team are working hard to ensure that those who need benefits, receive benefits. Another gimmicky press scheme from the extreme left won't help solve the problem ? Governor McCrory embraces solutions, not gimmicks," offered Ryan Tronovitch, Deputy Communications Director.

The news of the federal concerns come days after DHHS violated patient privacy laws and mailed almost 50,000 children's Medicaid cards replete with personal information to the wrong recipients. Then there were problems getting Medicaid claims, contracts for jobs that didn't go out for bid, and controversial pay raises for staffers.

This latest lapse could cause the state's 1.7 million food stamp recipients to go hungry. That could be the last straw for McKissick and other state Legislative Black Caucus members who plan to ask Wos to step down.

"It really gives you cause of concern to say do we really need to have the leadership there -- the secretary -- resign, the people underneath her replaced, or perhaps both," said McKissick.

DHHS Deputy Secretary for Human Services Sherry Bradsher released a statement which said,"DHHS has already taken steps to ensure that applications and re-certifications are processed in a timely fashion and submitted a corrective action plan to address the concerns raised by the USDA. DHHS continues to work closely with county social services agencies and are monitoring our progress weekly. Our work will continue until all clients are receiving benefits in a timely manner."

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