Cases remain in queue, but DHHS says food stamp deadline met

Posted April 1, 2014

— State officials said Tuesday that they have erased all but 375 cases from a backlog of food stamp applications the imperiled federal funding to run the program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened to pull $88 million in administrative funding if the state couldn't get a handle on continuing delays that left some needy North Carolina families without food stamps for months.

The state Department of Health and Human Services had a Monday deadline to clear the application backlog. Deputy Secretary Sherry Bradsher said officials are confident that the USDA will approve of the state's actions, even though some applications remain in the queue.

"We think we're in a really good place," Bradsher said. "One hundred percent (compliance) is obviously a great place to be, but you're going to have a case here and there that need some extra time to resolve."

Officials won't receive formal notice from the USDA for a few days.

More than half of the pending applications – 195 – are cases in Guilford County that haven't even been entered into NC FAST, the state's benefits management system. The county notified DHHS officials last week that they had about 8,100 cases that needed to be processed, and a mix of county and state workers and outside contractors worked overtime in recent days to handle the bulk of them.

Bradsher said DHHS is in contact with social services offices in all 100 counties, and officials don't expect any similar surprises going forward.

Food stamps card Q&A: NC food stamp growth

With the USDA deadline behind them, DHHS officials plan to work with counties to determine the staffing needs of their social services offices to keep up with the influx of food stamp and Medicaid applications. The former grew by 55 percent over the last five years, while the Affordable Care Act has created a spike in people seeking Medicaid coverage.

"There has got to be some recognition that our caseloads have grown tremendously over the past few years," Bradsher said. "Staffing did not keep pace."

As workers were shifted to handle food stamp cases before USDA deadlines in February and again Monday, Medicaid applications were left piling up, and there are now about 81,000 statewide that have been delayed by at least 90 days.

The state cannot force counties to hire workers, but she said county officials are just as interested as DHHS in ensuring that people receive the social services they need. The Wake County Board of Commissioners, for example, voted in February to add 36 people to its social services staff to meet its growing needs.

Although NC FAST continues to be plagued by technical problems a year after it was implemented statewide – it was offline Sunday and working poorly Monday as state and county workers struggled to clear the backlog – the state is pressing forward with shifting the management of Medicaid and other social services over to it.

"The system has to be a reliable system, so slowness is a problem, and it's got to be addressed," Bradsher said.

Federal officials have given DHHS a waiver to continue re-certifying people's Medicaid eligibility under old rules in the state's old computer system through the end of the year until county workers become more comfortable with both applying rules adopted under the Affordable Care Act and putting the information in NC FAST.

"Change is hard, and it's hard on all levels," Bradsher said. "Trying to change at a time when caseloads are at all-time highs is challenging."


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  • Carol Smith Apr 3, 2014
    user avatar

    DHHS lost some staff because of Wos.

  • Forthe Newssite Apr 2, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    WOS is making the whole system look bad!

    and now that they aren't under the gun the backlog will rise again!!!!

  • Eq Videri Apr 2, 2014
    user avatar

    Seems like a few poorly run counties are making the whole system look bad.

  • angryingram Apr 2, 2014

    UBNICE..What is your definition of truly needed?

    THOMASEW52..Could not have said it better.

  • lavenderdejectedmoon Apr 2, 2014

    There is no excuse for starving people.

  • readme Apr 2, 2014

    All the starving poor people must be staying inside, because I only see the obese and slightly overweight ones walking the streets in the middle of the afternoon on weekdays when I drive through the bad parts of town. Oh wait, that's right, it's because they are so broke they can only afford non-healthy meals. LOL, the liberal lies!!

  • uBnice Apr 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    The amount of "your" money being handed out to the needy is a mere pittance compared to that handed out to the greedy, i.e., corporations. Just a drop in the bucket.

    I am wondering how I can get the money stolen from me and millions of other people taken back from the greedy corporations. I have no problem giving it to the truly needed within reason.

  • Thomas Williams Apr 2, 2014
    user avatar

    It amazes me as to how much effort, expense, etc. goes into getting people their freebies. Just think of the money that could be saved if the freebies were cut out (exception being those who have legitimate needs; which are the vast minority). People would be compelled to go to work, doing something productive if they were not dependent on their monthly freebies. We would be a lot healthier as a nation, both physically, and emotionally. Work is good for your body, and your mind, and people ought to be doing something that contributes to the overall good of society, and their fellow man. If people sit around and drain off their neighbors resources without contributing much of anything, society suffers in many different ways. I would bet that we could shut down a lot of mental health practices if people would just get off their lazy dependent behinds, and get to work doing something.

  • RDcallsit Apr 2, 2014

    ...and on and on.... and on.....

  • whatelseisnew Apr 1, 2014

    Ah so nice they are able to hand out the money being stolen from me and millions of other people. Funny about that equal treatment thing, somehow it does not apply to foodstamps, or welfare, or ObamaCare or Medicaid, and on and on.