Under the Dome

As federal deadline looms, DHHS works to clear food stamp backlog

The state Department of Health and Human Services sent more of its workers into counties this week to help local staff clear their backlogs of food stamp applications. Getting caught up is crucial because the federal government has threatened to cut off the money it sends the state to administer the program – about $88 million a year – if it isn’t done. The deadline is Feb. 10.

Eleven counties are “processing centers” where local staff and DHHS workers are plowing through the applications together. Some of the processing centers are regional. For example, Orange County is hosting a processing center assigned to work on on applications from Alamance, Durham and Orange counties.

Some counties, Pitt, Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Cumberland, have extra DHHS staff in their processing centers, but they weren’t assigned to work on applications from other counties.

Wake, which has the biggest backlog, was assigned more DHHS staff than any other county, according to a Jan. 27 letter to county social services directors from Department of Health and Human Services deputy secretary Sherry Bradsher.

Bradsher set out staggered deadlines for all counties to get caught up with applications. As the first DHHS staff finished their county work this week, they were to move to Wake County to help there.

Updated counts showed that Wake got through 66 applications between Thursday and Friday. Only 2,934 to go.