By John Peters
February 13, 2014
The state Department of Health and Human Services claims it has cleared a backlog of food stamp applicants that were more than 90 days old.
Forgive us if we’re a little skeptical, this isn’t the first time the department has claimed to have the situation under control.
Even if officials are finally right and do have the overdue applications properly processed and benefits are now going to those in need, we still believe Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos and others to the state level need to be held accountable — meaning replaced — for this debacle.
The program, officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is one of the most important services offered by the department of Health and Human Services. It’s food, one of the most basic, primitive needs, for families — oftentimes including children — who simply won’t have anything to eat without the program.
In most cases, local food banks and the food stamp program is all they have, and these past few months have been torturous for tens of thousands of people across North Carolina as Health and Human Services officials turned a blind eye toward their needs, leaving them in limbo for weeks, even months, because of problems with a new software system installed to handle the cases.
Locally, social service workers have done all they could, often staying late, putting in extra hours, making personal phone calls to Raleigh to clear up problems for individual applicants.
In the state capitol, however, Wos and those serving immediately under her were more concerned with placing blame than fixing the problem, even trying to dump their problems at the feet of President Obama, claiming the Affordable Care Act was the root of their problems (though Wos stopped doing that when it was pointed out that 49 other states had no such issues with the Act).
Finally, the USDA threatened to withhold $88 million in federal money used to administer the program in North Carolina.
That got Wos scrambling, ultimately overseeing a plan that had retired workers, temporary employees, anyone they could bring in to offices around the state working through the backlog.
It’s well and good that the department finally quit playing the blame game and did their job, it’s just a shame that the threat of losing federal dollars is what moved Wos and her cronies to act.
Clearly, she didn’t care about the thousands of North Carolinians who were literally going hungry because her department couldn’t do its job.