FNS Update: County, State Staff Give Extra Effort to Meet USDA Deadline
Today's updated numbers show that North Carolina continues to make significant progress toward meeting federal requirements for processing FNS (food stamp) applications and recertifications. Staff from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services along with county social services departments have reduced the number of outstanding new applications by more than 17,000 since the state's January 23 update to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The number of recertification cases reported as pending more than 90 days has been reduced from 358 statewide to just 10 as of Thursday morning.
"This has been a herculean effort on the part of our counties and our own staff," said Wayne Black, director of the DHHS Division of Social Services. "I am so proud of the work everyone is doing to see that families in our state are getting the benefits they need."
Counties have demonstrated creativity and dedication in processing applications despite last week's interruptions due to winter weather. Many counties, like Moore and Lenoir, are assisting partner counties in processing cases. Many others, such as Guilford, have authorized overtime and have encouraged managers to keep a close watch on productivity numbers. Below are some anecdotes from county partners:
"When we were down to the last nine cases needing documentation, we sent caseworkers to make home visits for the first time in 25 years. They even were able to locate an applicant who had dropped off a paper application, was homeless and living in his car. We are working the State Reports hourly and checking the status of cases with workers every hour."(Susan Moore, Director, Moore County DSS)
"Onslow County government was closed Tuesday, January 28th at 10:30am through Monday, February 3rd to all staff, but FNS staff continued to work on this program. Since Monday, we have been open for business and serving LIEAP clients as well as our normal load. We have opened the building to staff at 7am and stayed open for staff through 7:30pm, allowing overtime for staff to work on the FNS cases. We have continued to have our Social Workers provide home visits for clients who could not get in and to pick up documentation for applications to be processed." (Heidi Baur, Director, Onslow County DSS)
"Meetings have been held daily with the Program Managers, Assistant Director, and Director on progress being made. Due to the weather, the agency was closed January 28-30, yet staff worked both Saturday and Sunday to make up ground lost during the closure. The agency has been opened from 6 AM - 7 PM daily to continue to process applications and reviews." (Kathy Heslin, Economic Services Manager, New Hanover County)
"We pulled and trained all non-FNS staff to assist with gathering, screening and/or processing FNS cases and hired temporary workers to assist in this project. We have utilized overtime for over 18 months; last weekend we had 145 workers working Saturday and 67 workers working on Super Bowl Sunday. We even opened our Tot Lot to allow workers who have children to work overtime more easily." (Peggy Eagan, Director, Mecklenburg County Social Services)