Problems continue to plague NC food stamps system
Posted August 6, 2013
Updated August 7, 2013
Creedmoor, N.C. — Months after North Carolina rolled out a new computer program to streamline social services, people say they are still having trouble obtaining their food stamps benefits.
About 170 people in Granville County are complaining that they didn't receive their monthly food stamps allotment on Monday and might have to wait until the end of August to get caught up.
"I have two pieces of bologna, and I have a piece of bread," one woman in Creedmoor said Tuesday, describing the contents of her refrigerator.
The woman, who declined to give her name, has an empty freezer and only a few cans of soup and green beans in the cupboard to feed her and her teenage daughter.
"I guess I can eat one can a day, but you know, hopefully, my daughter can eat at a friend's – a meal here and there," she said.
Counties statewide have been using the NC FAST system, which stands for Families Accessing Services through Technology, since at least March. Officials with the Granville County Department of Social Services preached patience as they address what they call a glitch in the system.
"With any new program, you're going to have a certain amount of glitches," said Lou Bechtel, county DSS director.
Bechtel said DSS staff members are still getting used to NC FAST, and he couldn't predict when the problems would be fixed.
"I could consult my crystal ball, but I don't think that will help," he said. "They're working it on a day-to-day basis."
Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said each county has "a learning curve" in shifting to NC FAST, and the agency is trying to help them work through problems. The state has sent support staff to some counties, and others have hired temporary workers to process applications, he said.
The Creedmoor woman, who is disabled and has been receiving food stamps benefits for three years, said she has no choice but to wait for her benefits, however difficult that may be.
"I just don't know what to do," she said, choking back tears. "You hear about these things happening in other countries, when people are really hungry. I know I'm going to feel what it feels like to be really hungry, and I'm scared."
Food banks available to help
Rev. David Richardson, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Creedmoor, said the church's food bank is accepting cash and food donations for the woman and others in Granville County who don't have the ability to purchase food.
The food bank is open from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays and is located on Main Street in Creedmoor. The phone number is 919-528-2351. Checks to the First Baptist Food Bank can be mailed to P.O. Box 38, Creedmoor, NC 27522.
NC FAST isn't the only new computer system causing problems for the state. A growing number of Medicaid providers are considering suing the state Department of Health and Human Services over the NCTracks system, which they say has created various difficulties in getting reimbursed for health care services to the poor and disabled.