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Fri April 4, 2014
State Falls Short of Federal Food Stamp Deadline
Georgia officials say they fell just short of a federal deadline to complete thousands of backlogged food stamp cases. Missing the number of food stamp applications it needed to finish by April 1 could put the state closer to losing millions of dollars from the federal government.
The state’s Division of Family and Children Services was supposed to complete approximately 30,000 cases that were overdue at the end of February by the end of March. But a report given to the federal government showed the state failed to complete 337 of those cases. However, Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton says the state met 99 percent of the federal goal.
“Of the 337 cases that missed the USDA’s deadline on March 31, most are complete today or are awaiting action from a client, and while we did not completely hit all of the benchmarks set by the department of Agriculture, we did not miss them by much.”
Those 337 cases are now part of about 5500 that were backlogged as of March 31. The state now has until the end of the month to complete those cases and any remaining that become overdue. If the state doesn’t finish those applications, it could risk losing up to $76 million dollars. Horton says the state is doing everything possible to keep that from happening.
“We just hope that based on our performance that there will be some favorable consideration.”
In the meantime, Horton says the state plans to apply for a federal waiver for more 2600 applications for those most in need.
“Now this is a strategy that if it’s approved, it could provide immediate relief to those who desperately need our services.”
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture told Georgia to avoid losing federal funding it would have to do away with the backlog and find ways to fix its food stamp program. The warning came a number of issues with program, including problems with a state call-in center. State officials say they hope to get a new call system by the end of the year and will make changes to its eligibility system. They also say two thousand state employees have been working overtime to clear its backlog. They also say the state will hire more high-quality workers and make changes to its eligibility system.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson says, "SNAP is one of our country's strongest defenses against hunger and poverty and a critical support for eligible low-income families. USDA has made its expectations to Georgia very clear and we will continue to do so. We are currently finalizing our review of the state’s response to the March 31 deadline and will provide results once that review is complete.”
The department also says, “On April 3, 2014, USDA received a letter from Georgia indicating their intent to submit a waiver request package. Once the official waiver request package is received, FNS will carefully review the State’s request. FNS remains committed to working with the state to ensure eligible individuals and families have access to SNAP benefits in a timely manner.”