Guilford County DSS director out, state expecting to meet deadline to clear food stamps backlog

The head of Guilford County’s social services department announced his resignation Monday, days after a previously unknown backlog of 8,000 food stamp recertification cases was discovered Wednesday.

NC FAST logoRobert Williams resigned following a meeting Monday, according to the Greensboro News & Record, and explained his departure with a quote from a 1986 hit single of Janet Jackson’s.

“I felt it was best for me and best for the board,” Williams told the News & Record. “I feel like we’ve done some good work, done some good things while I’ve been here. But sometimes, to quote Janet Jackson, it’s ‘What have you done for me lately?”

The Guilford backlog, which was estimated to be at 8,100, last Wednesday, was down to a manageable few dozen cases today, according to the News & Record.

Williams is not the only county DSS director to leave after facing questions about massive food stamps backlogs that have left families, in some cases, waiting weeks or months for emergency food assistance. Pitt County’s DSS director announced he was retiring last November after questions were raised by a county commissioner about whether food stamp applications were being destroyed.

Meanwhile, state officials appear cautiously optimistic they’ll meet today’s deadline to clear a once-massive backlog of pending food stamps cases.

Missing today’s deadline set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to clear a backlog that had risen as high as 23,000 could have put more than $88 million in federal funding in jeopardy for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

As of mid-day Monday, the state still had 9,811 pending applications and 14,712 recertification, the vast majority of which are considered “timely” by the state because they’ve been pending for less than 30 days, according to DHHS data.

The federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) is overseen in North Carolina by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. County-level workers that process applications for food assistance encountered major issues last spring when a new benefits delivery system N.C. FAST experienced lengthy delays and numerous glitches when implemented statewide. The technical problems with NC FAST, coupled with a steadily increasing requests for help, meant backlogs began to pile up in counties around the state.

DHHS spokesman Kevin Howell released a written statement Monday about DHHS’ effort to meet the deadline.

“Throughout this process, DHHS has had regular, positive conversations with the USDA’s Regional Office, and they were very pleased with the state’s efforts and understanding about the situation in Guilford County,” Howell said, according to the written statement released by DHHS. “DHHS staff will confirm the numbers tonight and send the final information to the USDA early tomorrow morning.”

USDA communications officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

3 Comments

  1. David

    March 31, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Do you know how this might affect a person receiving SNAP benefits in Cabarrus County?

  2. Sarah Ovaska

    April 1, 2014 at 10:37 am

    David, I’m not sure what you mean, but people should be receiving their food stamps in Cabarrus and all other counties. Please feel free to email me at sarah@ncpolicywatch.com if you want to share more information about a particular situation.

  3. Pat

    April 1, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I called Guilford county DSS today and was told that my application has not been processed. I last received benefits on November 2013.