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Georgia families struggle for answers over missing SNAP benefits

State officials blame a worker shortage and increased number of SNAP applications for the delay in benefits for some Georgia families.

NEWNAN, Ga. — Inflation is hitting families hard, and now some Georgians are struggling even more after they say they did not receive critical food assistance from the government, which they rely on each month.

“What I make at work goes directly to my bills, and there’s nothing left,” Jessica Caufield, who lives in Newnan County, explained.

With a budget already stretched this, Caufield depends on monthly allotments from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The federally-funded program helps low-income households pay for groceries.

So she said when her SNAP benefits didn’t show up in her account this month, she panicked.

“I freaked out because I mean, I count on that every month,” she said.

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Sheintie Bolden is also waiting on answers, and more than $700 she needs to help feed her family, including her five children.

“For the most part, we’ve just been doing our best to try to eat, you know, a little bit less or, you know, things that are just a little bit cheaper,” Bolden said. “We’ve gotten very accustomed to noodles.”

11Alive reached out to the Georgia Department of Human Services, the state agency which oversees the disbursement of benefits, to figure out why some Georgians are experiencing a delay. 

“Due to inflation and workforce shortages, we are working through increased volume for SNAP applications and renewals,” a spokesperson confirmed in a statement. “We continue to explore ways to secure more flexibility from the federal government to process cases more quickly and efficiently. At the state level, we will also offer overtime for staff.”

While SNAP recipients indeed must occasionally renew their benefits, those 11Alive spoke with said they renewed early, only later to learn of delays in processing paperwork. 

Bolden even showed a confirmation that her benefits were marked as approved -- yet she has yet to receive her monthly funds. 

"It was to my understanding that they had received it and that everything was still okay on my case," Bolden said. "But apparently they hadn't even viewed it or received it or change it or anything, and she said that they're just extremely understaffed and they haven't gotten to it."

11Alive previously reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP at a federal level.

"FNS is currently in conversations with the GA Department of Family and Children Services to understand the cause of the delay and to identify the most effective methods for customer inquiries," a spokesperson confirmed.

As of Friday, the Georgia Department of Human Services said the federal government has approved the state's waiver request to extend SNAP benefits for "no more than six months for customers with pending renewals from August-October 2022." 

"Our vendor that administers the Gateway portal will work through the weekend to make the appropriate system updates to trigger benefits for these customers before the Thanksgiving holiday," the department said.

The department added to help support Georgia families, this month's SNAP benefits previously scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 23, will be delivered on Monday, Nov. 21.

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