The Winston-Salem Journal doesn’t mince words in its Thursday morning editorial calling on DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos to apologize for her department’s efforts to cast the blame of recent food stamp distribution problems on county-level workers. The editorial board writes:
Aldona Wos, state secretary of health and human services, owes an apology to every social services worker in the state after she and her underlings incorrectly blamed them for this summer’s breakdown in the food stamp approval.
When NC FAST, the state’s computer system for social services, went online with new software on July 15, the application process sputtered like a car running on tainted fuel. Computer screens in county offices locked up, their screens went blank and they often lost data already entered.
Wos and her staff repeatedly blamed the counties, saying they had failed to properly train for the long-anticipated software rollout and that they did not employ enough workers.
In the meantime, almost 70,000 North Carolinians who needed food stamps were not getting them, and the county workers who could not make the systems work were getting the blame, both from the citizens and from Raleigh.
It was unfair behavior on the part of Wos and her minions.
An exhaustive search of DHHS email by WRAL-TV of Raleigh determined that DHHS officials have known for quite a while that the problem did not reside, for the most part, in the 100 county departments but with a glitch in the state software. The fix came more than a month after the problems started when some county workers, on their own initiative, changed their browsers from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome.
The pain was considerable here in Forsyth County, where local officials referred approximately 1,200 families to local food banks. No doubt, many Forsyth County employees went home from work this summer seriously frustrated with a computer system that wouldn’t work and a state office that was blaming them.
The good news is that the system is running well now and that a serious backlog has been eliminated. And, at Forsyth DSS, Director Joe Raymond spoke understandably about the problems his workers and N.C. DHHS faced.
Raymond’s graciousness is much more welcome than Wos’s acerbic finger-pointing. It’s time for the secretary to admit she was wrong, and then to apologize.