Food Stamp problems fail man when he needed help the most

ATLANTA – It has been more than a week wince Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the Department of Family and Children's Services to ask for a federal waiver – giving them permission to immediately approve food stamp applications for those with little or no income.

It was his response to 11Alive's repeated questions about the ongoing problems with the program.

We have since learned that the waiver has yet to be approved – and the US Department of Agriculture will not say why.

Regardless, DFCS says it has worked through all but 17 of the 2,600 cases that would have been impacted by the decision.

Stories of food stamp hardships continue to surface. One man says the system failed him when he needed it the most.

Martin Hatfield desperately tried to renew his food stamps in January, like thousands of other Georgians trying to do the same. Repeated phone calls and emails got no result.

"I wasn't able to get out of here without a lot of help," Hatfield said.

While the Type I diabetic patient was losing his food stamp coverage for two months, he was, at the same time, coping with another loss. He lost his lower leg to complications related to diabetes.

"Having to deal with the amputation and then having to deal with how am I going to feed myself just piles the stress on," he said.

Hatfield's case was just one case caught in the huge DFCS backlog. More than 160,000 cases that slipped through the cracks in the past few months. But Hatfield, a former pharmacy delivery driver, says his plight is common – employed, but simply not making enough to cover the bills.

According to state statistics, more than half of adult food stamp recipients are working, but they are working to live at or below the poverty line. In order to qualify, a family of three must take in $2,100 a month or less -- and those households must have assets worth no more than $2,000.

Hatfield says when food stamp help is cut off, low income families make tough choices.

"You're having to decide which utility I can hold off on until next month – what will they not turn off," he said.


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