ATLANTA -- Employees with the state Department of Family and Children's Services have asked 11Alive News to take a closer look at the processing of food stamp applications.
The state just transitioned to a new phone and computer based method of processing applications. Employees say the state has not invested in the infrastructure needed to keep up with the applications coming in.
In a recent open records request, emails in November questioned why problems noted in July had yet to be fixed.
"The computer systems never work," said food stamp recipient Kissmic Woody. "They are never available or they are down or the screens blank out."
Even today, families complained of access problems. You have to remember this not just an inconvenience.
"For almost a month, I'll have no food," said food stamp recipient Amelia Mackie.
Even when they can file for help, there has been a backlog in processing applications. In November, more than 43,000 cases were on hold. DFCS says it's spent nearly $400,000 on overtime in the past two months just in trying to catch up, but it appears the waiting game is not over.
"I waited in line for 30-40 minutes? An hour in line? And I found out that they can't help me," Mackie said.
DFCS says it is hiring more caseworkers, but several already on the job candidly told me that it won't do any good. Key programs, they said, still don't work. They shared emails that showed in February alone, they faced internal computer problems on six out of 12 work days - take out the days for the snow storm and there were only four full days in February to process applications that determine whether thousands of families would have food.
What do managers at DFCS say about the problems? No one would answer those questions directly at this point, but calls have been made to the commissioner's office, to the governor's office looking for results. Even the federal government has demanded a corrective action plan.
We know there are people at DFCS who care, so this is either bad management, a bad design or both, but something needs to be done.
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