Local News

Months after conversion, Wake food stamp system still backlogged

Posted September 17, 2013
Updated September 19, 2013

— Thousands of Wake County families continue to wait up to three months for food stamps almost a year after the county's Division of Social Services started processing claims on a new state computer system.

The NC FAST system has been plagued by what state officials call "glitches" for months, which have backlogged the system. Officials said managing benefits cases in NC FAST is also more labor-intensive, bogging things down even further as staff tries to learn the new system.

Jodie Mason and Jonathan Harvell haven't had any food stamp benefits since February and have been living off his wages as a pizza delivery driver.

"They keep telling us it's going to take a little bit longer, take a little big longer," Mason said Tuesday. "I understand that (they're having computer problems), but we need food, you know. We need to survive. We need to feed our daughter."

Liz Scott, assistant director for Wake County DSS, said the department "will significantly reduce" its case backlog in the next two months. The agency has added 40 temporary staffers – and plans to hire more – and has full-time employees putting in overtime to address the situation.

"We have processes in place to address the most overdue situations quickly," Scott said in an email to WRAL News.

Mason and Harvell said they are squeaking by with financial help from their parents, an understanding landlord and food from a local pantry. But the delays in obtaining their food stamp benefits has made daily life frustrating.

"It's been so rough to try and put together meals, to decide whether we should buy food or put gas in the car," Mason said.

"Our insurance is behind. Our power bill is perpetually behind, cable, all of our bills," Harvell said.

Food stamps card Food stamp computer problems could soon expand to Medicaid

He continues to look for extra work – he was laid off from a job at a computer repair shop – while Mason takes classes at Wake Technical Community College – she eventually hopes to do research – and cares for the couple's 2-year-old daughter.

"A lot of people are saying that people who are on food stamps are lazy, and it's not true. It's absolutely not true," she said.

Scott said Wake County officials have referred many families to area food banks for help until the NC FAST problems can be fixed.

"We have also partnered with the United Way to contribute additional funds to the food pantries, as this has caused such an increase in demand," she said.

State Department of Health and Human Services officials declined to answer questions about the continued problems with NC FAST, saying only that more than 160 agency workers are helping counties address the problems and that the agency "is very concerned when anyone doesn’t receive needed benefits on time."

Next month, counties will start to use NC FAST to process Medicaid applications, which Scott said could cause even more problems.

"I anticipate that Medicaid staff will experience the same learning curve that Food Stamp staff did. They will be slower at the beginning as they learn the system," she said.

Update: Harvell said that DSS notified him on Sept. 19 that the family's food stamps benefits card would be arriving in a week and that he and Mason also would receive about $2,400 in back benefits to make up for the six months they were without them.

67 Comments

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  • itsmebaby Sep 20, 12:10 p.m.

    I agree with Rachel that I would be feeding my child before having a cable bill. I had to go without TV for a while and learned it wasn't a necessity but a luxury.

  • itsmebaby Sep 20, 12:07 p.m.

    I hope the best for this family. I am trying to imagine how scary it must feel not being able to feed and provide for my little one.

  • readme Sep 18, 6:18 p.m.

    I'm impressed harvell64 is on here talking about the issue with us, no matter what people might think of his personal situation.

  • Minarchist Sep 18, 4:35 p.m.

    The problem is that people think that minimum wage should be a living wage.....which it was never intended to be. - RAZOR

    You can live off minimum wage. I did. BUT I was squirting my kids all over town.

  • teddyspaghetti Sep 18, 4:12 p.m.

    razor2: no the problem is NOT with the lack of a living wage. The problem is that people think that minimum wage should be a living wage.....which it was never intended to be. It was a way for entry level people to learn how to get and keep a job, get some experience and move on to a 'career'. Go to school, learn a trade, but don't think you can support yourself (let alone a family) on minimum wage!

    Oh....and how many poor people do YOU support (not including your taxes)??

  • Minarchist Sep 18, 4:04 p.m.

    Families are being ripped apart due to debt, values tossed out the window due to having to work low paying part time work so certain parties can throw their fit about the government and reaping more profit than ever off the backs of these people. - RAZOR

    Thats why I voted against the FEDERAL RESERVE. Let me guess you voted for ROmney or Obama and SUPPORT the never ending DEBT caused by the Federal Reserve. Clueless people. You voted against your own values!!!

  • Minarchist Sep 18, 4:02 p.m.

    People like you make me sick with all your self serving judgmental holier than thou attitudes... your wife and the government is the only one in your so called pocket just like the rest of the citizens of the US. Just because your political party uses that lie so silly people like you can blame everyone else but the real people creating the problems. This man in no way has failed his family the failure is the lack of a living wage. Families are being ripped apart due to debt, values tossed out the window due to having to work low paying part time work so certain parties can throw their fit about the government and reaping more profit than ever off the backs of these people. People like you that enable the wealthy are a huge part of the problem. One day you will be on the receiving end of all the hate you spew .
    razor2
    September 18, 2013 3:31 p.m.
    Report abuse

    My party? Thank you!! I dont have a party. He failed. And is now begging me.

  • razor2 Sep 18, 3:31 p.m.

    HARVELL64 you had a kid without atleast $50k in ssavings???? And you wonder why you're asking us to feed you??? Well duh. Poor people. Im glad Im here to help!

    People like you make me sick with all your self serving judgmental holier than thou attitudes... your wife and
    the government is the only one in your so called pocket just
    like the rest of the citizens of the US. Just because your
    political party uses that lie so silly people like you can
    blame everyone else but the real people creating the problems.
    This man in no way has failed his family the failure is the
    lack of a living wage. Families are being ripped apart due to debt, values tossed out the window due to having to work low paying part time work so certain parties can throw their fit about the government and reaping more profit than ever off the backs of these people. People like you that enable the wealthy are a huge part of the problem. One day you will be on the receiving end of all the hate you spew .

  • crkeehn Sep 18, 3:22 p.m.

    "Apparently, they do not really NEED the assistance program.. they are eating.. or they would be dead by now.. which proves the point that they do not need to be on welfare rolls. they have found a way to survive.. it is called a budget.. which most welfare folks know nothing about" - Linspace

    If you had read this article and other articles, you would see that the Wake Office is referring clients to local food banks for help until NC FAST can be brought under control. An article last week indicated that the demand on local food banks has risen so drastically as a result of the recession and the issues with food stamps. Local food banks are being stretched to the limit to try and meet the demand.

    http://www.wral.com/nc-food-banks-devoured-by-demand-after-state-federal-cuts/12880663/

  • icdumbpeople Sep 18, 3:07 p.m.

    "GOP crop wanted leaner and more efficient government"

    What does the GOP have to do with this software?

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