It could take more than a week to determine what happens next, but if the USDA doesn't feel DFCS has done enough, a formal warning letter will be written, setting in motion the potential loss of $75 million in federal funds.
ATLANTA -- The state has until midnight Monday, to prove to the federal government it has a solid plan in place to fix its troubled food stamp system.
When the USDA sent a letter March 5th, warning Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton, his department was at risk of losing $75 million in federal funds, the state had 166,000 backlogged cases, representing families trying to get help with food stamps and other social services.
In a response written two weeks later, DHS projected it would still end the month with 26,000 cases past due, but be able to cure the backlog for good by May first.
DHS says it's hired more than 500 temporary and full time workers, but admits its losing employees as fast as it can hire them. Instead, it's having to rely on overtime to weed through the case load. So far, that's cost taxpayers an estimated 1.5 million dollars.
While it will be up to the federal government to determine if enough has changed, families 11Alive talked with on Monday say to them, very little has changed.
"With this system sometimes they lose your information, they say they never received it," said Shaneek Mason, who was leaving a Fulton County DFCS office after submitting her paperwork again.
"This 1-800 number that they get you to call, I guess it's just a number. Nobody's ever there to pick it up," said Derrick Stevenson.
The complaints come after the state hired a private consulting firm, Cambria Solutions, to offer solutions to its infrastructure and staffing problems. The lead employee will make $235 an hour, as part of a $242,000 contract, upsetting many families who can barely afford food for their families.
But the suggestions offered may finally give weight to solutions long overdue. DHS has several independent programs it must rely on to receive and process applications. The corrective action plan calls for one integrated system, but will take more than a year to create. Critics say it should have been in place before DHS launched its new online and phone based system for processing applications.
A USDA spokesman says it could take more than a week to determine what happens next. But if it feels not enough has been done, a formal warning letter will be written, setting in motion the potential loss of funds.