Wos warns of next food stamp deadline

Posted March 12, 2014

Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos tells lawmakers during a Feb. 11, 2014, oversight committee hearing that North Carolina met a federal deadline to clear a backlog of food stamps applications.

— Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos told lawmakers Wednesday that the state will have a difficult time meeting a key food stamp deadline March 31.

The number of backlogged cases has rebounded to 1,975 around the state. 

The food aid program has been mired in deep backlogs since the state launched its new benefits program, NC FAST, last July. The delays, some months long, violated federal rules regarding the timely administration of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits.

After a series of warnings to DHHS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally threatened on Jan. 23 to withhold $88 million in administrative funding for the state's food stamp program if the problems with NC FAST were not resolved.

The first deadline, Feb. 10, required the resolution of the longest-delayed cases. County agencies managed to meet that deadline, but only by working nights and weekends, hiring temporary staff and diverting staff from other program areas. 

For the second deadline, coming up March 31, the USDA has required DHHS to resolve all backlogged cases and to have corrected the problems causing the backlogs so that all cases are being processed within the federally required time frame. 

"Meeting the March 31 deadline coming up will be extremely difficult, and the stakes are very high," Wos told the Joint Legislative DHHS Oversight panel. 

"All of us have our work cut out for us over the next 19 days," she said. "The counties and the state must again work tirelessly."

In the past, the state has blamed county staff for most of the backlog, while counties have insisted the problem lay with the NC FAST system itself.

"What we are learning through this process is both the state and the counties must ensure they have appropriate staffing levels with the appropriate skill set," Wos said.

DHHS will resume sending out daily updates on progress on the backlog, she said, adding that she would update lawmakers next week.  

NC FAST director Anthony Vellucci left DHHS on March 7 for a private-sector health care IT job in Maryland.

'Functioning fine'

Later Wednesday, DHHS IT Chief Joe Cooper told lawmakers that NC FAST Is "functioning fine."

"We have defects, and as we have defects we address them," he said.

When skeptical lawmakers quizzed him on the continuing backlog, Cooper said there are several contributing factors. 

"It’s the amount of work that’s being done, it’s the 100 counties, and it’s the individual system," Cooper said. "We had backlogs before NC FAST ever came along. We have a system now which can better track the backlog." 

Meantime, NC FAST was down for an hour this afternoon due to "latency issues," according to an email from DHHS. 

Backlog progress

I'm a tooltip y'all.


This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • lopo Mar 13, 2014

    LOVEMYPIRATES, saw the Native saying when I was on a rotation in S. Dakota souix reservation. I figured it was an old saying since it was there.

  • aconnersmom Mar 12, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Brigand, you obviously are not a county "works". No one can speak about this NCFAST system and its capabilities unless they sit at a computer day in and day out and utilize it. This system is the biggest joke I have ever seen, and human beings are being affected across NC because of it. Please take time to know what you are talking about before you point a finger at workers who have been working overtime nights and weekends for over a year and have had very little time to spend with their families. It's time for the finger to point back at the State of NC where the responsibility for this program lies, not to the Counties who have been handed a system that does not work. I welcome you to come and work with this system any time, any day.

  • dsdaughtry Mar 12, 2014

    is DHHS insinuating that food stamp paper applications are faster to process than the computerized NC FAST system?

  • Eq Videri Mar 12, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    This is a very good point. If some counties do a much better job than others implementing a state or federal program -- as reportedly has happened with food stamps -- then that's a sign that the system itself isn't the main problem, local county management is. Otherwise all the counties would be in the same boat, which apparently they're not.

  • rushbot Mar 12, 2014

    WOSGATE continues....

  • Todd Singleton Mar 12, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Fuel prices. Weather. Safeway wanted to buy an all natural gas powered fleet but couldn't buy the trucks in the US. Conservatives, please thank your corporate masters at any major oil company. For profit, nothing but profit, no matter the consequences in the name of the "job creators". Let us pray.

  • LovemyPirates Mar 12, 2014

    RUSSTIGG - the "outrageous" cost of food prices have been driven by the higher costs of petroleum (tractor fuel, truck that transport food, petroleum fertilizers) and climate change. Australia has historically been a large food producer has been in drought for over a decade and all one has to do is look to California to see how drought is impacting food production in the US. Livestock production is also being impacted by the US drought.

  • zenithcadet1 Mar 12, 2014

    Wally1957: they re-evaluate every year. And if a person does not report getting work they have to repay the money back.
    It's very ironic that the DHHS staff(NC Employees) are working 7 days a week to meet deadlines by 3-31-14 so that the people who probably have NEVER WORKED, NEVER WILL WORK and would be INSULTED if asked to work can get their "ENTITLED" food stamps. The state needs to order a complete re-verification check on every recipient.

  • same ole story Mar 12, 2014

    "All of us have our work cut out for us over the next 19 days," she said. "The counties and the state must again work tirelessly."
    In other words "We have actually do our jobs when we are supposed to in a timely manner." The days of the "good ole boy, I'll take my time and not preform network are over!!!" The Republicans are in charge now!!!!!

  • Michael Hart Mar 12, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I truly hope you aren't in charge of implementing and program updates where you work, they all have glitches, and the NCfast could've been pulled prior to the rollout and P.S. this was after Perdue left office! Hint.... Macadoodle and Wosismee had every chance to pull it or delay it...they did not