North Carolina came up just short of a federal deadline to clear certain parts of its food stamp backlog. State Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos announced this morning that there are still 25 food stamp applications or renewals left.
Putting That Number Into Perspective
It means the state did, in fact, come up short of a demand from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program. But it is a massive improvement from about three weeks ago, when there were more than 20,000 food stamp applications that had significant delays. More than 8,000 of those were pending for more than three months.
So How Did The State Get Through So Many Of Them So Quickly?
By getting state and county employees to work insane hours. Some in Mecklenburg County have been working from 5:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night. And health officials in every county I reached out to say their employees have worked overtime.
Does That Stop Now?
Well, the problems built up because of an online system called NC FAST the state rolled last year. And that system still has glitches. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given North Carolina basically a final deadline to get all the problems under control – that deadline is March 31. And here's what Secretary Wos said this morning about what it'll take to get there.
"We are still on that same labor intensive schedule until we get through, through the 31, through the next hurdle," she said.
And here's the thing: NC FAST is the system our state is planning to use for all kinds of public assistance. Food stamps are only the first step.
So What's To Stop Another Crisis When The Entire Medicaid Program Gets Rolled In?
I haven't heard a good answer to that. Secretary Wos and other health leaders say, we'll work as much as we need to.