RALEIGH, N.C. -- For months now, thousands of families had to go without their food stamps because of computer glitches from a new software program called NC FAST. The state Department of Health And Human Services stepped in to help, and they say things are getting better.
But the head of NC FAST, Wayne Black, says the glitches are likely to happen again when the state expands the computer program next year. So, 2 Wants To Know pressed for answers about what will be done to prevent interruptions in service from those glitches.
"I don't expect that we're going to have a backlog," Black said.
Black says the state has learned a lot from the massive wait times that impacted families these past few months. The first change they'll make is more computer training for county staff. Last time, it was webinars - next time, the state will host in person classes.
Second, they'll have over-the-shoulder support staff from the state, in each one of the counties when the new program elements launch. Something they waited weeks to do last time.
"So instead of having an expert in Raleigh they can call and maybe have to wait for them to call back. We need to have an expert in every county," Black said.
Finally, they've decided to make 160 temporary workers less temporary. Workers came in to help overwhelmed counties catch up. They entered claims that couldn't be processed sooner because of computer glitches. That staff also took weeks to hire. So the state's keeping them around to avoid a lag-time for hiring again.
"I think we have a lot more options. We've created a lot more flexibility in terms of going forward," Black said.
So what will those temp workers being doing between now and the next time the program is expanded in January? The state says they'll keep processing any claims the counties hand over.
We don't know how busy they'll be because the state says the counties are finally adjusting to the new computer system. But we do know those temporary workers will be making at least $14.50 an hour.