DHHS finds Guilford County foodstamps backlog bigger than thought, state at risk of not meeting federal deadline

UPDATE: Guilford County officials are reporting 8,100 backlogged food stamp applications before next week’s deadline.

Guilford County is sitting on an unknown number of pending applications for food stamps, a development North Carolina health officials say puts the state at risk of not meeting a March 31 federal deadline.

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos informed lawmakers about the problem in Guilford County at a health oversight committee hearing Wednesday morning about the state’s Medicaid budget. She said the news came just five days before a U.S. Department of Agriculture to clear the last of what was a massive backlog of people waiting for federally-funded food assistance.

“Guilford County may have a backlog that is more significant than previously reported”  Wos said, adding that she learned of the problem just minutes before the meeting. “We are concerned.”

Wos did not provide many details about the scope of the Guilford County issue, other than to say that it appeared that the county social services staff had not entered the information into the state’s benefits delivery system called N.C. FAST.

“This is not a problem with the NC FAST system,” Wos said.

She told lawmakers that state officials depend on counties to provide accurate information.

“We only know what the counties have entered and we are reliant on their accuracy,” Wos said.

DHHS staff was on its way to Greensboro to assess the problem, she said.

Wos said that, other than the recently realized issue in Guildford County, the state  was on track to meet a March 31 deadline set by the U.S Department of Agriculture,  with just 520 pending cases in the state.

The backlogs stemmed from the troubled rollout of  the N.C. FAST (Families Accessing Services through Technology) system last spring as well as heavy caseloads at the county level as requests for food stamps have doubled in some urban counties.

In December, a USDA official wrote Wos and told her that more than $80 million of federal funding could be withdrawn if state health officials didn’t quickly fix the backlog. Federal officials repeated their warnings in January, telling Wos that “(c)itizens 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.”

The agency met a Feb. 10 deadline to deal with those who had been waiting several months for benefits, an effort Wos described then as “Herculean.”

Over the last few months, N.C. Policy Watch had heard from multiple people in Guilford County having issues receiving food stamps, including 72-year-old Maria Best of Greensboro, who has been without food assistance since November.

From our March 12 post about the food stamps backlog:

We first spoke with Best, a 72-year-old and recent breast cancer survivor living on a limited income, for a Feb. 12 article about the food stamps delays. Reached today, Best said she has yet to get any assistance, and has been waiting for more than three months for help. The last time she received food stamps was in November.

“It’s getting really tough,” she said, adding that she’s had to limit putting gas in her car and has been living off odds and ends in her pantry and freezer.

Compounding the problem for her was last week’s ice storm that left many in the Piedmont without power for server days. Best’s children, who had been helping buy her food, lost all the food they had in their home to spoilage and aren’t in a financial position to help her this month.

“I’m so aggravated with all of it,” Best said. “They (DHHS) just fell down on the job big time.”

Note: This post will likely be updated as we learn more.

Are you waiting for food stamps? We’d like to hear from you. Email reporter Sarah Ovaska at [email protected] or call (919) 861-1463.


  1. Callasa

    March 28, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Ask the question of Wos and State DHHS. How behind on applications for Food Stamps were county workers before NCFast? The answer will be the workers weren’t. Ask the same officials why workers were advised to delete pending applications? And the answer may be they didn’t…..but most food stamp workers in any county can tell you they were advised to get rid of pending cases to make the numbers look good for USDA…I have Been told. In theory the system is great but in reality it is a nightmare for workers and clients.

  2. shakita pannell

    April 1, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    I have been waiting for months haven’t received any food benefits.we have used all free foid pantries .i have two children that has stuck it out with me.my refrigerator has been completely empty these past two months …….grace of god we still making the best out of can food.i wish the system will hurry up we are very hungry.please help if any kind.we struggle to pay rent and bills just ti at least buy a burger a day to stay alive.help

Check Also

UNC Board of Governors face protest, chooses new board chair and interim president

It was a busy day at the final ...

Join Our Team

NC Policy Watch is hiring two new journalists to join our award-winning team. Click here for more information.  

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Trustees at Historically Black Colleges and Universities oppose the change over concerns that conser [...]

As part of our ongoing effort to inform North Carolinians about the state judiciary, Policy Watch is [...]

In testimony, the facts didn't always add up to the truth Kenneth Harrison III slouched in a ha [...]

Fourth Circuit ruling should offer protection in North Carolina WASHINGTON — Transgender teen Andrew [...]

There has never been a more urgent time for Congress to step up and pass a relief package that ackno [...]

In 2008, artist Shepard Fairey’s iconic image of then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obam [...]

The post The Postmaster always gives twice appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

As unemployment has climbed and household budgets have been stretched thinner and thinner, more fami [...]