Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos made the comment Wednesday to a General Assembly oversight committee. Wos said the backlog of people waiting more than a month for their food stamp applications to be processed stands at almost 2,000 people.
Now counties are responsible for the administration of the program and for catching up on those numbers, but at the end of the day, the buck stops with Wos, and she has to have that backlog erased by March 31. If that does not happen, the federal government has threatened to pull funding from the state.
Wos told lawmakers it would be a struggle to meet the deadline. It is a similar position they found themselves in a couple months ago, when they wound up hiring temporary workers, and recruiting volunteers.
Lawmakers say they will be holding DHHS's feet to the fire when it comes to making sure they meet the federal requirement.
"When people are delayed in getting their food stamps, that's food they can't put on the table. Right now, we're getting calls in from people who are unable to do so -- you're still taking those calls? -- still getting those calls there's still a lot of people in a lot of counties that are adversely affected and a lot of workers who still can't get caught up with delays," said Sen. Floyd McKissick.
The state already met a Feb. 10 deadline from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to handle more than 20,000 applications and renewals pending for more than 90 days. USDA threatened the loss of $88 million to continue administering the program unless the deadline was met.