Lawmakers Intervene In Statewide Food Stamp Delays

10:26 AM, Oct 9, 2013   |    comments
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RALEIGH -- State lawmakers are intervening in the ongoing problem that has prevented thousands of people across the state from being able to have their food stamps--also known as EBT cards--recertified.

All day Tuesday, the joint legislative committee on health and human services questioned state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) director Aldona Wos. Amid lawmakers' accusations that Wos hired inexperienced and highly-paid employees to work in the department, Wos also responded to questions about why two expensive statewide computer systems have not been effective.

Wos said problems with the new "NC FAST" computer system, which has been attributed to causing a backlog in food stamp recertification, are being fixed. Wos said, "No system is perfect," and the backlog has almost disappeared in most counties.

But, WFMY News 2 and state lawmakers who represent local counties continue to receive an influx of calls and e-mails from people who say they have not been able to receive food stamps. Some people claim it has been since July since they last received application recertification.

Democratic senator Earline Parmon from Forsyth County said she wants answers from DHHS. Parmon is a member of the joint committee that questioned DHHS.

"What we want answers to is...when is the system going to be fixed? We have not been able to get clear guidance on information that will ensure us as policy makers that this system is anywhere near being able to function or work properly," Parmon said.

Parmon said the committee also is wondering whether DHHS might need to look at discontinuing the use of "NC FAST" and instead find another system. She said she also questions if the contractor who was hired to implement the system is in compliance with the contract in abiding by the time frame to efficiently provide system services.

Parmon has advice for constituents who continue to experience delays in receiving their food stamp recertification. "What I would say to them is if there is an extreme delay to contact your local legislator directly, and certainly my office has been doing that. But, I would say to constituents and other folks-call your legislator directly to let them know the problem's continuing."

The assistant director of the Guilford County Department of Social Services office said the office is continuing to work overtime to sort through the backlog of cases and is processing the missed recertification applications in the order in which they were received. WFMY News 2's call to the department's director Robert Williams went unreturned.

WFMY News 2 made contact with the office of republican representative Donny Lambeth of Forsyth County. He, too, serves on the joint committee on health and human services and was in the meeting Tuesday with DHHS.

He did not return a call for comment, but Parmon said both democrats and republicans want something to be done to make the expensive statewide computer systems work effectively as soon as possible.

The other computer system in question is the "NC TRACKS"-a Medicaid billing system. Under that system, doctors and hospitals have been struggling to file successful reimbursement claims for treating Medicaid patients.

WFMY News 2






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