North Carolina met food stamp backlog deadline, DHHS chief says

Officials were up against a deadline to help people who need food or face the loss of millions of dollars in federal money.
February 10, 2014 9:00:00 PM PST
Officials at the state Department of Health and Human Services say North Carolina has successfully met the federal government's deadline to process outstanding food stamp applications.

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos announced Tuesday that her agency met the deadline, however, said despite all efforts to process the remaining cases, there are 25 cases that remain pending with good cause.

She said in nearly all of the cases, the county agency is waiting for additional information or continuing to try to make contact with the applicant.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave North Carolina until Monday to process a backlog of more than 23,000 food stamp applications and renewals that had been pending for more than 90 days. The applications are supposed to be processed by law within 30 days. Failure to meet the deadline could have resulted in the loss of millions in federal funding.

The state has struggled for months to process a backlog of food stamp applications resulting from a faulty update with its NC FAST software.

But even as Wos praised what she called a "herculean effort" over the past few weeks, some lawmakers say the backlog should have been cleared much sooner, and without a threat from the federal government.

"I was extremely gratified to know we got caught up on our backlog, but it took the threat of a federal cut of $80 million and seven months of delayed and interrupted food stamp benefits for many people around the state and that's unconscionable," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, (D) Durham County.

There is still work to be done.

Over 1,200 more backlogged cases need to be taken care of by March 31. They involve people who have been waiting for their benefits for up to 90 days.

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