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DHHS Secretary Calls State-County Partnership Key to Success

State and County Officials Working Overtime to End FNS Delays

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Contact: news@dhhs.nc.gov
              919-855-4840

Greensboro, N.C. - Today, North Carolina Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos, M.D. underscored the need for county and state officials to continue to work in partnership to help qualified North Carolinians receive Food and Nutrition Services (Food Stamps) on-time. Secretary Wos' remarks about the North Carolina Families Accessing Services through Technology (NCFAST) initiative came during a meeting of the executive team of the North Carolina County Commissioners Association in Greensboro.

"This is the number one priority for the Department because we are very concerned when anyone doesn't receive their benefits on-time," said DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, M.D. "While some counties have been extremely successful in implementing NCFAST, some counties are experiencing issues which affect certain clients. The Department and county officials are working overtime and mobilizing all available resources to process applications and recertify benefits."

On July 15th, Medicaid eligibility determination capability was incorporated into NCFAST system. The addition of these capabilities resulted in changes to how data was entered by county departments of social services' (DSS) workers to complete a Food and Nutrition Services application and recertification. This update to the system was a significant change and challenge for all 100 counties, and impacted certain counties timely processing of applications and recertifications for Food and Nutrition Services.

Wos reported that during the month of August, NCFAST has issued over $178 million in Food Nutrition Services for more than 687,000 individuals and families. During the month of July 2013, $204 million in Food and Nutrition Services were issued, just 0.12% less than the amount issued in July 2012.

Secretary Wos also explained that based on feedback from the counties, the state is making improvements to the NCFAST system to make it easier to process benefits. In addition:

  • The state has provided additional communications and training materials and is enhancing communications with county DSS Directors.
  • The state is also responding to county feedback by adding 160+ temporary employees to the NCFAST Team to provide even more on-site support in each county (no additional state funds will be required). In addition, the state has redeployed existing resources from counties that are doing well to counties that need assistance with processing benefits timely.
  • The state is providing additional help desk support to solve issues as they arise.
  • As with any IT system, the state is quickly working through any defects found in the system.

"I want to reassure the individuals and families across North Carolina that all 100 counties are working closely with the state to ensure everyone who qualifies for Food and Nutrition Services have their applications processed quickly and accurately," said Tammy Schrenker, President of the North Carolina Association of County directors and local Director in Richmond County. "The NCFAST project is a monumental change for the state and counties, but it is crucial step forward in replacing a 40+ year old antiquated paper-based system."

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Initiated back in 2009 with broad bipartisan support, North Carolina Families Accessing Services through Technology (NCFAST) is a program designed to replace 40-year old systems and improve the way the NC Department of Health and Human Services and county social services agencies provide services and benefits. NCFAST introduces new technological tools and business processes in all 100 counties that will enable workers to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time assisting individuals and families needing benefits, such as Food and Nutrition Services, Medicaid, Low-Income Energy Assistance, Crisis Intervention and Child Care.

 

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