Action 9: Many still waiting longer than usual for food stamps

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. —

Many people are still waiting longer than usual for food stamps, especially in one local county.

Months after the state rolled out its new computer system, NC Fast, Cabarrus County is still chipping away at its backlog.

One insider told Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke the county sees this backlog as a crisis, just as if a tornado tore through the county, and officials are taking it seriously.

More than 20,000 Cabarrus County residents count on food stamps, like Tammy Gasper, who said she just got hers for July, August and September last month.

Action 9 was told more than 2,000 people are still waiting an extra month or two for theirs.

County Human Services Director Ben Rose said the county is working overtime and weekends. It hired 10 temp workers to help, committed an extra $20,000 to keep nine of the workers longer, reassigned workers from the front desk, mail room and other divisions within and even outside the DHS to food stamp duty and literally drove files to Raleigh so state employees could help.

Food stamp workers stop answering calls at 2 p.m. every day to spend the rest of the day on the backlog.

"We're still digging out from that hole, so now the system works better, but we're having to dig out from that hole," Rose said.

Rose said his team hopes to have it under control any day now. In the meantime, the best thing for people to do is go to food pantries like Cooperative Christian Ministry.

But, Action 9 was told, demand here was up 40 percent and donations were only up 10 percent, so the pantry also needs help.

"The food banks have no food. People need to get out there and get some food to these food banks because these people that are not getting their food stamps. They're going to the food banks and they're depleted," Gasper said.

The state rolled out the Medicaid component of NC Fast last month. Cabarrus County plans to make the full switch in February or March, and it doesn't want to go into that with a backlog.

If you've been ripped off, overbilled or misled; or if you see something that is hurting all consumers, contact Action 9.