Food stamp program races to keep $76 million in federal funding - CBS46 News

Food stamp program races to keep $76 million in federal funding

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

The head of the agency that runs Georgia's food stamp program said he is working to erase a massive backlog of cases so the state does not lose $76 million in federal funding.

The Department of Human Services has asked the federal government to issue a waiver that would allow the state to hand out food stamps without screening applicants up front.

"We're doing everything humanly possible to avoid a penalty," said DHS Commissioner Keith Horton during a conference call with reporters on Friday.

Horton said applicants would eventually be screened within approximately two weeks.

The state said the number of people applying for food stamps has jumped 55 percent over the past several years, causing a backlog of more than 2,600 cases. In addition, DHS' computer system is at least 20 years old.

"Our employees are working their tail off to make sure that they're getting the benefits out to our customer base," said Horton.

The commissioner said DHS is short-staffed and employees are working around the clock to erase the backlog.

"Lately, there's been something going on with the phones, so you have to come in person," said Denesha Long, a mother of four. "It's bad."

Horton said the state should have the backlog cleared up by the end of April. The agency is working to get a new computer system by the end of the year.

Horton was unsure how quickly the federal government will rule on the waiver request.

"They should at least just give it to us because we have to feed our kids," said Jasmine Heard, who has one child and is expecting another. "How else we going to feed our kids?"

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