Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus called on Gov. Pat McCrory Friday to replace Aldona Wos as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The group of House and Senate lawmakers held news conferences around the state to discuss its concerns about Wos' leadership, a day after a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was made public, threatening to withhold administrative funding for the state's food stamps program because the state had failed to fix problems with its NC FAST benefits enrollment system.
The Dec. 11 letter from USDA cites DHHS data showing thousands of families waiting months – sometimes three months or more – to receive benefits for which they qualified.
"These delays are completely unacceptable and a serious failure on the part of North Carolina," wrote the USDA's Food and Nutrition Services regional administrator Donald Arnette. "We have grave concern for the low-income people of North Carolina who are waiting for assistance."
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus echoed those concerns at their Raleigh event.
"Gov. McCrory needs to look and address the leadership problem that he is having at DHHS," said Rep. Yvonne Holley, D-Wake. "He needs to stop the bleed on the poorest and the neediest people here in our community "
The agency has reeled from one crisis to another over the past year, from problems with NC FAST to the failed rollout of NCTracks, the state's new Medicaid billing program. On Dec. 30, the agency sent out nearly 49,000 children's Medicaid cards to the wrong addresses, violating federal privacy laws and opening the state to the possibility of hefty fines.
"At what point do you decide that what has happened requires drastic fixing?" Holley asked.
House Minority Leader Larry Hall and Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt called for Wos' ouster Monday. Reps. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg, and Michael Wray, D-Northampton, members of the House HHS Oversight Committee, added their voices Thursday.
McCrory Deputy Communications Director Ryan Tronovitch pointed out Friday the letter is nearly a month old. He said DHHS has already taken "corrective action" to address the USDA's concerns.
"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," Tronovitch said in an emailed statement. "Gov. McCrory embraces solutions, not gimmicks.”
DHHS has not yet responded to WRAL News' request for comment.