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USDA threatens to pull NC's food assistance funding

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The federal government may pull funding for food stamps if the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services fails to significantly correct problems within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to letters between the USDA and NC DHHS, obtained by WNCN.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the state failed to provide a detailed corrective action plan to address delays in the program. They have since submitted another, and it is under review.

NC Fast is the statewide computer system aimed at quickly getting food stamps to people in need. But the program has proven to be anything but quick as an application backlog has meant that people are going hungry.

Food bank organizations in Raleigh, Nashville, Wilson and Fayetteville have all previously told WNCN that food stamp recipients are turning to them because they are not getting what they need through NC Fast. In fact, at the Helping Hand Mission in Raleigh, the situation has become so dire that the NC Fast program is nicknamed "NC Fasting."

This latest revelation comes on the heels of DHHS admitting they violated patient privacy laws after nearly 50,000 children's insurance cards were sent to the wrong people.

Thursday, officials with the USDA told WNCN that they received a response from the state in regards to the funding threat, on Dec. 23. However, at this time, they say it is unclear if the steps DHHS has taken will be acceptable, and the food stamp program is still in jeopardy.

DHHS sent WNCN a statement late today saying, "DHHS has already taken steps to ensure that applications and re-certifications are processed in a timely fashion and submitted a corrective action plan to address the concerns raised by the USDA."

"DHHS continues to work closely with county social services agencies and are monitoring our progress weekly. Our work will continue until all clients are receiving benefits in a timely manner," said DHHS Deputy Secretary for Human Services Sherry Bradsher.

More than 1.7 million North Carolina residents receive SNAP benefits.

On Friday, the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus will call on the Gov. Pat McCrory to take action against DHHS. They, and other lawmakers are also calling on Secretary of DHHS, Aldona Wos to resign.

"There has been problem after problem. Fiasco after fiasco, and it cant continue with this avalanche of mismanagement," said democratic Senator Floyd B. McKissick, Jr.

Thursday night, the state GOP released a statement, calling the criticism of DHHS politically motivated.

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