Food stamp backlog almost cleared

Jul. 07, 2013 @ 08:08 AM

Social services workers are almost caught up with the backlog of paperwork that has been plaguing the food stamp program in Caldwell County and making it harder for those on the program to keep food on their tables, county officials say.

“We're about two weeks behind for allotment releases,” said Martha Hedrick, Caldwell County's Food Nutrition Services supervisor. “By the end of July, everyone will be entered in the system. We’re finishing up the last recertifications that aren’t yet in the system.”

Last month, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services diverted five state employees to Caldwell County to assist with NCFAST, the state’s new online case management system designed to streamline the processing of applications, including those seeking benefits from the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Caldwell County was one of the first counties to roll out NCFAST in January and start rebuilding its database. Three of those workers were to remain with Caldwell County until the end of this week. Employees have been working six days a week since January.

Debra Hubbard of Granite Falls, who had been receiving $256 each month in her EBT account, completed the paperwork in May to continue her benefits, and it was approved June 13. But because of the backlog in processing she had not received a deposit in her account since May 11 -- until Tuesday, when she received her check for June.

Even with the food stamps, Hubbard said she and her 25-year-old daughter, Lisa Miller, had been struggling to put food on the table. Hubbard works part-time at a McDonald’s in Hickory, Miller at WalMart in Granite Falls.

“Having to pay for our own food takes a big bite out of our budget,” Hubbard said. “We have to go to the food banks.

“At least we have jobs. I hate it for those who don’t work and are waiting on their food stamps.”