Time's up for NC to process back-logged food stamps - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Time's up for NC to process back-logged food stamps

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State Health and Human Services officials say they'll reveal on Tuesday if the state met a federal deadline to process pending food stamp cases.

The U-S Department of Agriculture {USDA} gave North Carolina a deadline of February 10th to process food stamp applications and recertifications that have been pending for 90 days or longer, and expedited applications that are older than a week.

The federal government stepped in back in December after thousands of North Carolinians complained they were going without food because they hadn't received food stamps.

County Social Service agencies blamed the N-C FAST computer system.

The USDA told state official to fix the problems and clear the over-due applications or face losing millions of dollars in funding.

On January 28th, state officials opened processing centers in 11 counties to tackle the pending applications before the deadline.

On Monday, WBTV checked with federal officials to see if the state met the deadline.

In a statement to WBTV, a USDA Spokesperson said "USDA is awaiting a response from the state. The State has until the end of the day to provide USDA with a status report on the benchmarks outlined in the January 23 letter. USDA will conduct a thorough review of the response."

Later Monday afternoon, USDA said "FNS {Food and Nutrition Services} understands that system reporting is run each evening, and agreed that case processing completed on the 10th may be incorporated into the state's report."

A spokesperson for DHHA said "state and county staff and leadership have put tremendous effort into meeting the federal government's deadline to process applications and recertifications pending over 90 days and expedited applications older than 7 days."

The state said "today, the DHHS staff is reaching out to county social services agencies to confirm final numbers and circumstances surrounding any cases that may remain outstanding." 

Governor Pat McCrory told WBTV there were 40 remaining cases, and the people are believed to be homeless. The Governor said officials are trying to find the people.

Governor McCrory said the state was fighting with the federal government to get a pass on the 40 cases that were outstanding.

NC DHHS declined to say whether the state met the deadline and cleared all 90-day old cases.

A spokesperson for DHHS said "Secretary Wos will provide an update to legislative leadership at Tuesday's regularly scheduled Legislative Oversight Committee meeting, which begins at 9 a.m.  We will make our report to USDA available at that time."

WBTV contacted county social services in our viewing area to check on the back-log.

In an email to WBTV, Tom Hughes, Director of Avery County Department of Social Services, said "Avery is completely up to date at the moment.  Counties have worked extremely hard clean up back log of cases caused by the problematic NCFast system.  I hope that the state level will continue to correct and improve this system."

Burke County DSS said staff "flexed their hours to be available during less active times, they came in early in the mornings and often stayed late in the evenings, they worked weekends, and during bad weather."

Dorraine Hernandez, DSS Director in Burke County, said "I am proud to say that Burke County does not have any cases that are not in compliance with the USDA guide lines. Our county had a lot of support through the transition to get Food and Nutrition cases converted to the new state system, "NCFAST". "Even with all of the support, it was an extremely difficult task. Our Commissioners and County Manager approved temporary staff. Our staff worked extremely hard."

Cabarrus County DSS said staff there worked over the weekend, and temporary workers were added. County officials said they cleared all 90-day plus cases, and expedited 7 day old cases. Cabarrus County said staff are not tackling case that have been pending 30 days plus.

Cleveland County officials say they processed their USDA requirements. County officials say staff worked overtime of 40 cases so they don't have a back-log of pending cases.

In Mecklenburg County, County Manager Dena Diorio told Commissioners that "In Mecklenburg County, the Department of Social Services (DSS) has been working on NCFAST for over 18 months, using temporary staff and employee overtime to meet the extra demand. I am pleased to report that DSS is currently up-to-date on all Mecklenburg County NCFAST cases; however, we continue to work with the state on systems issues."

The Director of Rowan County DSS told WBTV "I am very pleased to report that Rowan County does not have a backlog of Food and Nutrition Services applications or re-certifications."

Donna Fayko said "we wiped out our backlog last week through the hard work and determination of our staff in the Economic Services Division, the support of our County Manager and Commissioners in approving use of lapsed salaries for overtime pay, and the partnership of our state division in developing reports used for tracking purposes and in trouble shooting barriers from the automation side."

Stanly County officials their cases are up to date.

Jeanette Eatman, Interim Director of Stanly County DSS, said "we do not have a backlog of Food and Nutrition Services cases.  We were able to get up to date by working many long hours of overtime at night and on weekends.  Workers were pulled from other areas to help and it was a collaborative effort between the State and the counties."

Gaston County says it's all clear but it has one case that for some reason the system won't process. Officials say the state is working on it.

WBTV did not receive a response from Anson, Iredell, Union, or Watauga counties.

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