Food stamp backlog over, Ga. officials say

ATLANTA -- After clearing a backlog of thousands seeking food stamps, Georgia officials now are waiting to find out if it might lose millions in federal funding.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Food and Nutrition Service regional administrator Robin Bailey informed Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton that the problem of the state’s food stamp backlog has been resolved.

Last month, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services said it had cleared its backlog. DFACS had until May 14 to finish processing more than 30,000 backlogged cases, public radio station WABE reported.

Almost 2 million Georgians receive food stamps.

Georgia’s food stamp backlog resulted from staffing shortages and glitches with a call center already inundated with hundreds of calls daily, WABE reported. Food stamp recipients complained of hours-long call waiting periods to renew their claims, calls that sometimes went unanswered.

In March, the USDA ordered the state to clear its backlog and implement a corrective action plan by month’s end or risk losing $75 million.

The letter from Bailey said the state “has made strides in providing service to those households that experienced delays in receiving their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.”

Federal officials will continue to monitor compliance with processing requirements, Bailey said. More work needs to be done on improving the state’s call center, the letter added.

Horton issued a statement this week that “the USDA’s decision today to release Georgia from an official warning is a testament to the work of our staff, who were agile in implementing new strategies that significantly improved the food stamp application and renewal processes. DHS staff have worked overtime, sacrificing time with their own families, to eliminate the previous backlog so that Georgians could receive the benefits that they need in a timely manner.”

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