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As federal deadline arrives, NC food stamp updates go dark

Posted February 10

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— The state's health agency says it will wait one more day to release information on whether it met Monday's federal deadline for clearing the majority of its backlogged food stamp cases.

For more than a week, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has provided daily updates about the status of the rapidly eroding mountain of delayed cases. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned that failure to eliminate longstanding and emergency cases by Feb. 10 could cost the state $88 million in federal administrative funding.

Data released over the weekend showed that, with only a few hundred cases left, the state appeared poised to make the deadline.

But on Monday afternoon, DHHS spokeswoman Kirsti Clifford said state officials wouldn't release updated data or the department's response to the USDA until a legislative oversight meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning.

"State and county staff and leadership have put tremendous effort into meeting the federal government’s deadline to process applications and recertifications pending over 90 days and expedited applications older than seven days," Clifford said. "Today, the DHHS staff is reaching out to county social services agencies to confirm final numbers and circumstances surrounding any cases that may remain outstanding."

Read the documents

Correspondence between N.C. DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and the U.S. Department of Agriculture between Sept. 4 and Jan. 23 detail areas that required "urgent attention from the state."

Data originating from the state and provided by Wake County officials showed workers there had cleared the USDA-mandated portion of the backlog except for one case, which according to Wake County Assistant Human Services Director Liz Scott "had a policy reason that we could not complete."

Scott said the remainder of the delayed cases, which are due for completion by March 31, stands at 522.

"We processed 3,000 applications over the last two weeks and are extremely proud of our staff and the tremendous effort they made to meet the deadline," she said in an email. "We are going to work just as hard to get the cases above completed in advance of the next deadline."

Since September, the USDA has noted several problems with the roll-out of the state's new NC FAST system, designed to streamline the delivery of social services, such as food stamps and Medicaid. Among those issues was a backlog that, by the federal agency's best estimate, hit 70,000 over the summer, when a technical glitch slowed down processing.

Based on mid-November data from DHHS that put the backlog at about 26,000 cases, the USDA issued advance warning in December that it could withdraw administrative funding if the state didn't bring its program into compliance with federal rules.

More than a month later, after figures showed the backlog got even worse, the federal agency issued an ultimatum: Show significant progress toward fixing the problem by Feb. 10, or risk losing funding in mid-March.

In the ensuing weeks, state and county workers have focused on clearing the cases mandated by the USDA, reducing the backlog by more than 15,000 since Dec. 31. 

As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, a USDA spokesperson said the agency was still awaiting a response from DHHS officials.

Cases see sudden fall

Explore the graphic above to see how the food stamp backlog has changed since the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its warning. The bottom portion includes the majority of pending applications and recertifications the USDA wants eliminated by Feb. 10. Data will be updated as updates are received.

9 Comments

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  • Come On_Seriously Feb 11, 12:11 p.m.

    So if NC misses the deadline... due to a seriously flawed and expensive IT system from the... View More

    — Posted by mep

    ...says the same guy who blamed Obama for everything the day after his inauguration with a 'can't blame Bush anymore.'

  • Gidder Dun Feb 11, 11:10 a.m.

    So if NC misses the deadline... due to a seriously flawed and expensive IT system from the... View More

    — Posted by mep

    Bev has not been Gubner for 2 years. This is good ole McCrory and boys problem. Talk about blame and deflecting.

  • foodstamptrader Feb 11, 9:12 a.m.

    "I've only been waiting since July 2013. I only want to make ends meet since my full time job doesn't cover all my cost to provide for my family."

    What about a second job or reducing expenses. I have worked 2-3 jobs in the past to make ends meet. The taxpayers and your fellow citizens cannot support you for ever.

    Not trying to be harsh, but there is such a mentality now of living off the government, this was all supposed to be temporary to allow folks to get back on their feet. Never meant to be a way of life...

  • Seeingisbelievingintruth Feb 10, 10:31 p.m.

    What a complete Farce. So at risk of funding being pulled, our state government is being forced to process applications "over 90 days". The next deadline to process these late applications will be the end of March. So for us working poor that depend on this help till we get back on our feet, we tell our families, our children, not today honey, we get food money by the end of March. Social services just keeps telling all of us waiting, to visit food banks & churches. Let them eat cake do I hear them say? The pulling of the funds wouldn't directly hurt those so frantic to meet the deadlines. They go out to the stores, take home food every night, they have jobs that so many North Carolinians would love to have that have been out of work and searching exhaustedly for a job. At this point, my re-certification was in December, so now our family will have to wait to the end of March, before they get serious about processing our application. Nc Fast, it is not just delayed til March.

  • ladycouponer Feb 10, 10:10 p.m.

    After sending info regarding my new address to DHHS, my careless caseworker still sent my re-certification information to the wrong address leaving me to be caught up in this mess.

    You would think after me sending in my information 2 more additional times they would have gotten things right but when I called the DHHS last week to find out if all of my paperwork had been processed, they informed me that none of my paperwork could be found. So this is probably how they're going to meet the deadline. . . By losing everyone's paperwork.

    I've only been waiting since July 2013. I only want to make ends meet since my full time job doesn't cover all my cost to provide for my family.

    Yet, I will do my best to provide food and keep a roof over our heads at the same time with the help from the Lord above.

  • admin39 Feb 10, 7:21 p.m.

    " Clearly the Obama administration set the standards of failure and lack of accountability here." -MEP

    I'm impressed to see your affirmation of the failure of Wos and McCrory in this situation. This is just one, and thousands of North Carolinians are realizing McCrory is an ineffective leader. He has alienated most every large voter bloc in NC with broken promises, and continues to surround himself with incompetence rather than people who can get stuff done.

  • admin39 Feb 10, 6:58 p.m.

    "Not as long as Kathleen Sebelius continues at the helm of the failing Obamacare system. Clearly the Obama administration set the standards of failure and lack of accountability here."

    You mean taking responsibility about the poor rollout and getting it fixed? How is that the same as claiming everything is alright and not doing anything about it? The only similarity is that both Obama and McCrory continued to have full faith in their leaders. Sebelius did what any leader would do, take ownership and fix it. Wos ducked out the back hallway to avoid talking to the press any more.

  • Dr Sanchez Feb 10, 6:12 p.m.

    So, if NC misses the deadline . . . due to this seriously flawed system that Wos claimed and testified was ready and good to go besides being told specifically it was not, will she be held accountable by Governor McCrory or continue to receive a pass for her failure of leadership?

  • mep Feb 10, 5:59 p.m.

    So if NC misses the deadline... due to a seriously flawed and expensive IT system from the Perdue administration... the Federal govt will cut $88 million dollars from the administrative budget for the program. In effect, shutting it down. So will the Federal govt step in and ensure those needing food stamps receive them... and on time? Nope. So thnaks to the Federal govt people in NC will still go hungry... and people will lose their jobs! The govt givith... and the govt takith away. LOL.