12 OYS: Feds to slash $76 million in Ga. DHS funding if food stamp problems continue

News 12 at 6 o'clock / April 1, 2014

GROVETOWN, Ga. (WRDW) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving DHS 30 days to overhaul its food stamp program. Everything from its staffing or lack thereof right down to its out-of-date
technology.

"It's really aggravating to have to sit on a phone all day when I have a 3 year-old. I have to be at work," said Heather Cooper.

She said she is fed up having to wait for hours on end just trying to reach someone with Georgia DHS. "I have been trying for months and months," said Cooper.

To get back on the food stamp program after she said she missed her benefits review last November.

Making matters worse, Cooper said she received a letter last week from DHS stating that it apologizes but there has been a delay in processing her recent request for benefits and that she can call a worker at 877-423-4746.

"Every time I call it won't even let me go through, it just says sorry call back we're experiencing a high call volume," said Cooper.

On Your Side first began investigating problems with the DHS phone issues last December.

At the time, Brittany Powell said she was cut off food stamps too because she could not reach anyone on the phone for her review.

"The few times I have got someone to pick up the phone they say hello and hang up the phone immediately," said Powell.

Our investigation found there were only 350 agents who handled customer calls and most of them are virtual. In other words they work from home and not call centers.

12 On Your Side wanted to see for ourselves how long the wait time would be. We waited an hour to reach a representative.

Meanwhile federal officials are now threatening to cut up to $76 million in administrative funding if the majority of problems are not fixed in 30 days. "What are these people doing why can they not pick up a phone what are they just like sitting around looking at these calls," said Cooper.

The feds say under-staffing and out-of-date technology has cost thousands of Georgians their benefits and is demanding the agency reduce the backlog of overdue cases.

What does the Department of Human Services have to say about all this?

DHS said within the past month it has caught up on 166,000 backlogged and pending cases and has submitted a corrective action plan to the federal government.

DHS said it will provide News 12 details regarding the action plan after the feds send back their findings.


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