Deal on Food Stamps: Working to prevent future backlogs

ATLANTA -- By now, the problems are well known. The state rolled out a new system to manage food stamp applications, even though it knew the phone system was inadequate, the computer software outdated, and the staff too small. So how much is this going to cost?

It's not that taxpayer money is being spent to meet the needs of low income families, it's how much is going to problems that never should have existed.

There's the class action lawsuit now filed against the Department of Human Services. The $250,000 contract with the private company, Cambria Solutions, to do what the government couldn't -- get it right. And then, there's the half-million dollars being spent every week on overtime to catch up on the backlog.

"We're always concerned about spending tax money, but aren't you glad we've just about eliminated the backlog," said Gov. Nathan Deal.

The governor had no interest in talking about the problems that got us here, or even the costs to fix it. And while the state has made strides in processing applications, DHS still says it will end the month with 26,000 food stamp applications past due.

"Our agency and their employees have been working around the clock to eliminate the backlog, we're going to make improvements in the software to try to make sure we don't accumulate a backlog in the future," Deal said.

The backlog was created by the state itself. The phone line was set up to only handle 900 calls a time, despite more than a million participants.

The online application doesn't connect with the state's eligibility program. That means we pay workers to manually re-enter all of the information. The state has now decided, neither makes much sense. But a new software program won't come for more than a year, and the Department of Family and Children's Services admits it's still looking for "a call center solution."

We can't forget the real financial loss in all of this would be the $75 million the federal government has threatened to cut if the problems aren't solved.

DHS has promised the federal government the backlog will be eliminated for good - starting May 1.


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