ATLANTA -- Anonymous sources from the Division and Family Services tell 11Alive that the agency is breaking rules to get out from under a huge backlog of claims.
In a scathing warning letter to DFCS, the federal government ordered Georgia to fix its failing food stamp program or lose millions in federal funding.
Sources tell 11Alive that DFCS workers are approving and denying forms without going through the proper procedures to avoid losing $75 million federal funding. A USDA spokesperson told 11Alive's Rebecca Lindstrom that they've received similar complaints.
While they won't discuss those specific concerns, they did say in a written statement, "It is critical that the state of Georgia make significant progress in reducing backlogged applications" and that the USDA has made "clear its expectations."
11Alive reviewed performance reports received as part of an open records request and figured DFCS processed on average 52,000 cases a month last year. Thanks to overtime and what it calls "case prioritization," the agency says it has cleared 166,000 cases in March alone. But two anonymous tipsters claim they've been ordered to approve cases without checking to see if the applicants are eligible.
One woman said it happened to her. She said after a number of denials, she was suddenly approved. There was no eligibility interview -- a federal requirements for receiving benefits.
Another source said she's been ordered to do the opposite -- close thousands of cases without processing them. It gets them off the books, but also forces families to start all over again.
By phone, a DHS spokesperson denied any manager gave instructions to push applications through or deny benefits without going through proper procedures, and in a written statement, added DFCS fully expects employees to meet the "expectations of high quality case processing."
If these problems do exist, we have no idea if they are widespread. The USDA is expected to decide its next move, later this week.