DHHS still dealing with backlog for food stamps in state

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Many are still waiting for food stamps longer than usual, even though a state official recently told WSOC things would be back to normal by now.

The new computer system, NC FAST, is supposed to make things better, but many counties are having growing pains learning the new program, and that's leading to major delays.

So WSOC went to Raleigh recently and asked the state's social services director, Wayne Black, when the issues would be worked out.

"I think that's where we will be in another week or two ... we're working hard, and we are ambitious because we want folks to get their benefits," Black said at the time.

But now, it's two weeks later, and the state doesn't seem to be quite there yet. Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services officials say they don't expect to get to that point until the end of this month or even early next month.

So WSOC asked the state about this again.

Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ricky Diaz stated in an email: "During the month of August, NC FAST processed applications that resulted in the issuance of $207 million in Food and Nutrition Services to 806,000 North Carolina individuals and families in need, in line with totals from August 2012. Additionally, we experienced 93-100% overall system availability and up-time during the month of August. Most of the system defects that led to benefit delays have been resolved.

"The good news is that many counties have been extremely successful in implementing NC FAST and are now processing new applications at their normal pace. Some counties are still catching up but we have mobilized all available resources to fix technical issues with the program, and we are beefing up support for all counties, including the Mecklenburg area, as we work together to replace a 40 year old system for administering benefits. Now, because of looming deadlines mandated by ObamaCare, the next phase (Medicaid eligibility) of NC FAST must be implemented in all 100 counties by Oct.1."

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