Wait Times Back At Food Stamp Offices

5:04 PM, Sep 19, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- Seven fifteen. The doors at the Guilford County Department of Social Services don't open for an hour and 15 minutes. But the crowd in line says they can't wait any longer to feed their kids.

"It's hard. It really is," Tasha Brande said - tearing up.

This crowd of about 75 people represent a small fraction of those needing help in the area and across the state. 2 Wants To Know's heard about backlogs and long wait times, so we went in to wait with them.

Once inside, a worker tells us the computers are acting up. And with standing room only left in the lobby, it's about a two hour wait.

"This is ridiculous having to wait this long. Its ridiculous," Megan Hopkins said.

Even after your number's called and you leave the office, the wait isn't over. A paperwork error cost Robert Moore his food stamps. Now his family relies on extended family for their food. Social Services fast tracked his food stamps. But he won't get any help for five to 12 weeks.

"If I had to call 911 and they said my house is on fire, and they said 'Oh we'll be there in two to three months', it's not acceptable," Moore said.

DSS leaders blame the delays on a new program called NC Fast. It's supposed to streamline all branches of Social Services into one piece of software.

"The state is trying desperately to use technology to save taxpayers money and deliver the most benefits they can to the public," Guilford County Division Director Steven Hayes said.

Hayes says the system worked fine -- for a while. But every time the state integrates a new branch -- like Medicaid or child care -- it freaks out.

"We fell further and further behind in processing the cases because you'd have to wait for the system to come back up again. And so it's a snowball effect," Hayes said.

New systems will come on board through 2015. Social Service employees think their current problems will continue until then. So they're working overtime. People receiving benefits need to make sure they do two things to have their food stamps processed on time. First, make sure your correct address is on file. Second, if you get re-certification forms in the mail, turn it in by the deadline. There is no wiggle room for paperwork to be late.

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