Food stamp deadline arrives as state works to clear backlog

The problems stem from NC FAST, the computer system that handles the state's food stamp program.
March 31, 2014 2:53:53 PM PDT
Some people in North Carolina are still going hungry despite threats from the feds to pull millions dollars.

The problems stem from NC FAST, the computer system that handles the state's food stamp program. For more than a year, we've been telling you about the backlog of cases.

Monday is the deadline for the state. If they don't meet it, they could face action. It's still unclear if the state will make the deadline.

While I don't hear from as many families, I'm still hearing from viewers who have been waiting for months, and one waiting for more than six months.

One email was from a mom with four kids. She was struggling to get by, and waiting since January for their food stamps.

Her email said, "I returned all of my paperwork Jan. 3. I have been calling and calling and emailing and emailing with the same message that my case was still pending."

That mom is not alone.  Since the state's Department of Health and Human Services transitioned to NC FAST, we've been telling you about the backlog.

We've highlighted several families -- single moms who have struggled to feed their children due to months of waiting for their benefits.

"I did everything I can to make sure my information was in in a timely manner, and I don't really know what to do at this point," said Akele Cannady. "I'm just trying to make it and stay strong for my girls because my girls need me."

The federal government stepped in and warned if the state didn't get rid of its backlog, millions of dollars in federal funding could be in jeopardy.

Just last month, the state bragged about meeting the first deadline of getting through the most severely  backlogged cases, but did they really meet that deadline as claimed.

Check out this email I recently got. It's from a daughter whose 50-year-old mother is disabled and has been waiting for her food stamps since October!  

She wrote: "We have called on numerous occasions only to be passed to supervisors whose voice mailboxes are full, or to be told to wait a few more days. It has been almost 6 months and it is becoming harder and harder."

Once I got this case off to Wake County, after 6 months, that woman finally got her food benefits.

As for Monday's deadline, the state has to get through all untimely applications. No one from the state would talk to us on camera, but they gave us some numbers which show they have more than 550 cases that are considered untimely and that they need to get through by the end of Monday to meet the USDA's deadline.

If they don't meet that deadline, the state could be issued a formal warning.

If that warning is issued, that state would have 30 days from receipt of it to submit a revised corrective action plan.

A rep with the state's DHHS issued a statement that says in part, "The state and counties have put significant efforts into addressing the remaining backlog and achieving compliance with USDA timeframes.  Throughout this process, DHHS has had regular, positive conversations with the USDA's regional office, and they were very pleased with the state's efforts."

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