EXCLUSIVE: Employee, officials differ on food stamps backlog - WNCT

EXCLUSIVE: Employee, officials differ on food stamps backlog

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -
Social workers all across North Carolina work through thousands of food stamp applications to meet the federal government’s deadline to clear the backlog or lose funding. The United States Department of Agriculture threatened to pull the state's food stamps money by March if they didn't catch up by Monday. Officials in Pitt County say they met the requirement.

But have they really? In a 9 On Your Side investigation a source tells us the numbers and twisted and says officials are lying to the public. The employee says they are setting the record straight. They asked us to protect their identity.

"I think they're skewed. I think they've been minimized tremendously. It's unfair to tell the public that we're caught up. When they know we're not. Ever since I came to DSS there's been a backlog."

Since late January, the Department of Health and Human Services says employees have been working around the clock to minimize the back log caused by the state's new case management system, NC FAST.

Monday morning, Interim Director Earl Marett and Bryan Averette told 9 On Your Sides Pitt County is caught up. They had more than 12-hundred cases to begin with. 

“We have met the deadline for February 10th required by the USDA,” Averette said. 

But our source says that isn't the case. “Even before NC FAST we were behind. But the old system was different. It was worker friendly. The NC FAST system is not and because of that we will continue to have a backlog.”

Instead of blaming it on a glitchy system, managers accused employees of not doing enough, some were even fired. “NC FAST is a new system and it's different and some people are just not capable of working in that system,” Marett said. 

The employee we spoke to says since the USDA set the deadline their focus shifted to food stamps---neglecting other services. Averette says, “Well we've had to focus on food and nutrition services at the same time; we couldn't just let everything stop because of this project. So I wouldn't say it's been neglected."

NC FAST and the company that designed the software has had so many problems, not just here but in other states, costing millions in tax dollars. Next week we will have a lengthy report explaining why this happened and why some are being wrongfully accused of this mess.
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