Nashville, N.C. — A state computer program that is supposed to streamline social services is causing some people to wait longer for their funds.
Seventy-six counties are already using NC FAST, which stands for Families Accessing Services through Technology. Another 22 counties, including Wake County, switch to the Web-based system this weekend, with Mecklenburg and Forsyth counties changing over in March.
Dozens of families in Nash County said Monday that the new system has meant a delay in food stamp benefits.
A woman named Debbie, who declined to give her last name, said she has been without food stamps for six weeks.
"I think the state should have thought this thing out a little bit better, and I think they should've found another way to do this where families wouldn't suffer," Debbie said.
William Radford, who hasn't been able to work while caring for a sick family member, said he likewise hasn't gotten his benefits loaded on to a debit card since he re-certified with the Nash County Department of Social Services.
"I'm still wondering when we'll get them," Radford said.
DSS Director Melvia Batts said her staff is bogged down learning the NC FAST system. About 8,000 cases have to be manually entered into the new system, she said, which is a cumbersome process.
"There are a lot more clicks that workers have to do in order to process cases," Batts said, adding that the delay in benefits concerns her.
Nash County has hired temporary workers to help with the caseloads, and some DSS workers will go through training again.
"We're still trying to figure this out," Batts said.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that there is a learning curve with NC FAST, but she said many counties have made a smooth transition.