Stanly County Social Companies works to shorten meals stamp backlog – The Stanly Information & Press | The Stanly Information & Press – Stanly Information & Press
Over the previous a number of months, there was a noticeable uptick within the variety of Stanly County residents experiencing delays in receiving meals help advantages, particularly people making use of for an annual re-certification to show they’re nonetheless eligible for this system.
Since March, greater than 2,400 Stanly County residents have submitted paperwork to reclaim meals help advantages for one more yr. However solely about 54 % of the purposes have been thought of well timed, with greater than 1,100 nonetheless excellent, a current public data evaluate by The Stanly Information & Press confirmed.
Re-certifications obtained on the primary day of any month via the fifteenth is taken into account well timed whether it is processed on or earlier than the final day of the identical month, Stanly County Social Companies Director Dolly Clayton stated. If a re-certification is obtained the sixteenth or later, it must be processed inside 30 days.
Information printed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services revealed 67 % of meals stamp re-certication purposes in April have been deemed premature, the best proportion within the state, although it fell to 26 % in June. It was 53 % in August, just a few proportion factors behind Mecklenburg and Wake counties.
Comparable-sized counties haven’t had issues processing the re-certifications. For Haywood, Lee and Pender, which have populations near Stanly’s 63,000, none had an premature fee larger than 5% in August.
All through most of 2022, Stanly County has ranked among the many worst in North Carolina — together with a couple of bigger counties together with Wake, Mecklenburg and Randolph — in its efforts to re-certify meals stamp advantages in a well timed method.
A lot of the rationale for the backlog, Clayton stated, is because of staffing challenges and a rise within the variety of purposes and re-certifications.
The county’s Meals and Vitamin Companies employees consists of eight caseworkers processing purposes and re-certifications, Clayton stated, although at occasions the staff should give attention to different areas, resembling serving to walk-in clients and dealing with telephone calls.
4 new employees members have been employed this yr, she stated, however there are nonetheless two vacancies, together with a brand new place, which was budgeted as a part of the 2022-23 fiscal yr.
“Filling and preserving these positions is troublesome,” she stated. “It’s a high-volume, fast-paced setting with strict timeframes. New challenges now we have seen with hiring embody candidates not exhibiting up for interviews, employed candidates not exhibiting as much as begin and candidates who’re supplied positions declining the supply resulting from lesser advantages or pay than competing presents.”
Earlier than the pandemic started regionally in March 2020, Stanly had 3,471 households receiving Meals and Vitamin Companies, Clayton stated. Lower than two years later, in January 2022, the variety of households needing help skyrocketed to greater than 5,200, earlier than falling to 4,905 as of March. There have been 4,456 households receiving meals stamps as of August, which averages to about 557 circumstances per employee.
Re-certifications have been briefly suspended throughout the pandemic however started once more in January, Clayton stated, noting that employees employed in 2020 and 2021 obtained “minimal coaching on re-certifications” as a result of suspension.
Within the first two months of the yr, of the roughly 600 re-certifications, solely seven had been premature; that elevated to 145 premature re-certifications in March and it’s been an uphill battle since.
“With caseload will increase, that created the re-certification snowball and the appliance numbers growing mixed with employees turnover, vacancies and elevated foot site visitors quantity, leading to timeliness struggling,” Clayton stated.
Stanly County Social Companies obtained greater than 2,600 FNS purposes from January to August, a median of about 327 monthly, in line with state information. In 2019, the division averaged about 268 purposes every month, Clayton stated.
It’s not simply the Stanly social companies that’s feeling overwhelmed. Greater than 77,000 FNS purposes have been obtained all through the state in July, the best whole in additional than two years, since 91,000 have been obtained in April 2020.
“Our Meals and Vitamin Companies employees members are hard-working and devoted to the residents of Stanly County who apply for these companies, and I’m pleased with them for his or her efforts in the direction of timeliness even with our staffing challenges and elevated workload quantity,” Clayton stated.
Whereas Clayton acknowledges the battle to re-certify meals stamp advantages in a well timed method, on the subject of the so-called “expedited” circumstances, for households or people experiencing a meals disaster, these purposes have been processed at a better fee.
To attempt to cut back the backlog, Clayton stated her division has been trying to rent further short-term employees and present workers have labored longer hours. She stated the state has additionally pursued waivers with the federal authorities to mechanically prolong certification durations for households.
Clayton is assured the division will remove the backlog, it’ll simply take a while.
“If we have been totally staffed, with totally educated employees, then our processing timeliness would completely enhance,” she stated. “Nevertheless, getting there takes time. These employees members are devoted and dedicated to this work, and I do know that we will get there, it simply received’t be in a single day.”
“I’m grateful for the help of county administration for including the requested further place to this unit to assist with the elevated quantity of the workload,” Clayton continued. “We’re very conscious that these are essential advantages and are staying on high of this problem because it stays on the forefront of our minds.”