GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Recertification backlogs for food stamp renewal continue to be a problem in Guilford County.
One day after Commissioner Ray Trapp told FOX8 News the backlog was cleared and a federal deadline had been met, it was revealed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services that there were in fact still 195 backlogged recertifications that had been overlooked and were not included in the original count.
The Department of Health and Human Services does not anticipate the Guilford County cases and others around the state to cost North Carolina the $88 million dollars in federal funding that was at stake by not meeting the March 31 deadline.
"DHHS is proud of the results achieved through the collaboration of the state and counties," said Secretary Aldona Wos. "We anticipate the USDA will acknowledge our continued commitment to the state's most vulnerable citizens, and accept the hard work of county and state staff to reduce the backlog and our efforts to achieve sustainable, timely processing of FNS applications and recertifications."
A hotline has been established to help those still struggling for more than one month without food stamp assistance.
The phone number for help is 336-641-3100. Make sure you leave your name, address, phone number and indicate how long you’ve been without benefits when you leave a message.
“I don't have an explanation,” said Myra Thompson, interim director of Guilford County’s Department of Social Services. “All I know is we didn't do something right and fixing it-- that's what we're planning on doing.”
Food stamps recipients are frustrated by the delays.
"My momma lives up in West Virginia, she gets [food stamps] right away," said Samantha Metz who saw her benefits disappear three months ago.
On Friday, the now former director of the program Robert Williams blamed the new NC FAST system on the problem. He said it was also to blame for the problem not being discovered until just a few days before the deadline.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services responded to the comments Monday. A spokesman for the department said the system was working fine but did not reflect the backlog because the information had not been properly entered into the system. Therefore, there was no way to see a backlog using the NC FAST computer system.
Since then, extra resources have been pulled in to help Guilford county catch up, including 22 people from the state.
"We are pleased with the progress made by Guilford County and state staff this weekend," said Kevin Howell, a DHHS spokesperson. "DHHS staff is still on the ground assisting Guilford County and we will continue to assist them in meeting the USDA’s guidelines."
At least three state DHHS workers are expected to remain in Greensboro through the weekend to help staff identify mistakes workers made with the NC FAST system.
County leaders said the extra help has been appreciated.
"If at all possible we would have loved to work through the weekend but we understand the [computer] system had to go down," said Trapp.
Trapp said the focus moving forward will be on stabilizing the department and ensuring this problem of backlogs in the food stamps recertification process is not repeated.
Statewide, a total of 375 recertification applications that have stretched past 30 days still need to be processed.