DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. — Samantha Abrams was cooking collared greens, peach cobbler, broccoli casserole and a host of other traditional Thanksgiving recipes. But the holiday dinner at the Abrams household almost didn't happen. She heavily relies on disability payments and SNAP benefits, or food stamps, to make ends meet. She was supposed to get her money weeks ago, so she called and emailed state agencies repeatedly with no response.
“I’m dealing with anxiety, depression. I’m also bipolar and schizophrenia," Abrams said. "I had to go to food banks, I had to go to my brother’s house to feed my kids, and it was just absolutely horrible. It’s something very hard to see and hear if you’re sitting around and all of a sudden you hear your kids’ stomach growling and know there’s nothing you can do.”
For Abrams and thousands of other Georgians, the day before Thanksgiving turned out to be more like a Christmas miracle. Abrams finally received her benefits.
"If I didn't get them, my kids wouldn't have had a Thanksgiving," Abrams said. "That would've been the saddest thing. I really would've fallen into a deep depression."
Latonya Stokes' father finally received his SNAP benefits as well, 10 days later than normal. Stokes lives in South Carolina but helps her father navigate the online system to make sure he can receive much-needed food to live.
“He was excited once I called. I said, 'Daddy, your stamps on your card.' He said, 'yes!' So he was happy about it, saying finally," Stokes said. “I’m just thankful we still have food on the table.”
Stokes is just one of hundreds who have reached out to 11Alive, wondering why they had to wait so long to get their benefits. The Georgia Department of Human Services, which is in charge of doling out federal assistance. The department said it had been getting more applications recently while dealing with a worker shortage.
Those with pending renewals from August through October, the agency said, will have their renewals moved to February. DHS said they should receive benefits in the meantime.
"At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if this happened again," Stokes said about more potential delays in the future.
While Stokes, Abrams and others are thankful to get their money just in time for Thanksgiving, they fear any potential delays couldn't come at a worse time around the holidays.
“It means everything because my disability goes to rent and lights. That’s it," Abrams said. "I depend on this to get food for my kids. My heart goes out to people who still haven't gotten their benefits because I know how they felt. I felt helpless, felt like you couldn’t do anything, felt like that you had nowhere else to turn.”
While DHS told 11Alive people receiving SNAP benefits should get them by Thanksgiving, anyone who has not yet gotten their food stamps can check out other food giveaways for the Thanksgiving holiday here.