Meck County taking steps to address delays for food stamp recipients

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — It may take longer for Mecklenburg County residents to receive or renew their food stamps. The county said a backlog is causing delays.

Monday the county announced it will be taking a number of steps to address the significant increase in new applications and recertifications in both the Food and Nutrition Services and Medicaid programs.

Those steps include expediting the hiring of new staff, according to the Department of Social Services.

They said they are working hard to process all applications and reviews as quickly as possible to minimize the impact on families.

DSS released a statement regarding the situation, saying:

“DSS has taken action to improve timeliness standards, which includes working with Human Resources to hire 50 additional Economic Services staff so far this calendar year. Forty-four additional candidates have pending or contingent offers at this time, and 17 positions are scheduled for interviews. Other actions include using temporary staff or reassigning staff from other areas to help process applications, authorizing overtime for existing staff, and developing new processes to assist with the increased volume.”

Charlotte resident Tommie Purvis thought her recertification process would be quick. She thought it would take a week or so when she tried to renew her food stamps at the end of February to get benefits for March. She didn’t get them until Mid-April!

“It’s hard,” she said. “It definitely it is.”

In the two months that passed, she had to rely on a food pantry and family to help out.

“I was trying to save and not eat so much,” she said.

County Commissioner Pat Cotham said the backlog is unacceptable.

“I hate it,” she said. “We definitely have a problem.”

According to Mecklenburg County officials, from March 2019 to March 2022 there was an increase of 48% (24,840 cases) for FNS (SNAP), and approximately a 22% increase (34,967 cases) for Medicaid. County Commissioner Pat Cotham said there are also staffing challenges, 19% of positions in the Economic Services office are vacant.

“The Department of Social Services has experienced significant increases in new applications and recertifications in both the Food and Nutrition Services and Medicaid programs,” Alex Burnett, a spokesperson for Mecklenburg County said. “Our teams are working hard to ensure that we have all applications and reviews processed as quickly as possible to minimize the impact to families as we work to meet these unprecedented needs in our community.”

Cotham said she will keep the pressure on the county to clear the backlog.

“My father always said I liked to nagged so I will be nagging them,” she said.

Purvis said the county needs to act urgently.

“It’s been kind of rough on a lot of people,” Purvis said. “Food is going up. You don’t have any food stamps to be able to provide for your family and kids so you just are on a hope and prayer.”

It is unclear when the backlog will be cleared.

(WATCH BELOW: Two women sentenced to prison for committing food stamp fraud)