Saturday, January 25, 2014

Time running out to fix NC's food stamp problems

The first paragraph of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's regional administrator's letter to North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos about the continuing, unresolved problems with the state's backlog of food assistance cases says it all:
Citizens of North Carolina that need help putting food on the table are not receiving the basic level of responsiveness and quality of service that they deserve from their government.
As WRAL reports, the DHHS now has only a month to get its house in order before the USDA begins the process of withdrawing federal administrative support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The letter from USDA describes numerous on-going failures by the DHHS.

  • The primary issue is the unacceptable, unconscionable, and unlawful backlog in processing SNAP applications and recertifications. Despite earlier warnings from USDA and its own promises that the backlog would be eliminated, the backlog has grown worse.
  • DHHS has not been able to provide reliable data on the extent of the backlog. First, it reports one set of numbers, then another.
  • DHHS is not following the steps that it promised in its own corrective action plan. DHHS promised USDA weekly status reports on its handling of the crisis but has not delivered timely, complete, and accurate reports.
These latest failures come on top of Sec. Wos' earlier mishandling of the crisis, including her failure to provide an adequate response, including a corrective action plan, to USDA's intial letter in September.

The letter also puts to rest Sec. Wos' and Gov. McCrory's assertions that the Affordable Care Act is somehow responsible for North Carolina's bungling.
...the state is attributing the difficulties in reducing their SNAP backlong to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It should be noted that many other States have implemented ACA without the dramatic impacts on SNAP that have occurred in North Carolina
USDA is clearly exasperated with Sec. Wos' mismanagement, inadequate responses, and excuses.

Gov. McCrory continues to stand by his incompetent appointee, despite the havoc she is wreaking on NC's poor and the harm she is doing to the economy. Not only are tens of thousands of families going without desperately needed food assistance, but all of that assistance is 100 percent federally funded, meaning that the state is turning away hundreds of thousands of dollars each month that could help its underperforming economy.

In another month, the state could be turning away even more money.