Issues with the state system, known officially as North Carolina Families Accessing Services Through Technology, have prevented those citizens from receiving benefits they have been found eligible to receive, county DSS Director Norma Merriman wrote in a memo to the board for today's request. “Without the benefit the health of the individual/family is at risk,” she said in the memo.
In supporting information contained in the memo, Merriman wrote, “The implementation of the NC FAST data system has resulted in multiple Halifax County food stamp recipients not receiving their food stamp benefits for up to an eight-week period and many others for shorter periods of time.
“Without these benefits Halifax individuals and families are at risk of being food deprived which is a health risk.”
Merriman noted in the memo local food banks and closets are being depleted by increased demand related to the food stamp delays as well as the ending of unemployment benefits. “It has been necessary for Halifax DSS to develop food resources for the protection of our clients. Multiple food collection activities have been or are under way, however we are concerned that at some point these efforts will be inadequate to cover the needs of food-distressed clients.”
Wrote Merriman: “Our goal is to have access to these requested funds in the event we are unable to access food for an emergent situation related to NC FAST benefit delays.”
There are no federal, state or county funds in the DSS budget for this type of expenditure and the general assistance budget that would normally cover this need was removed from the department's budget in 2007, Merriman noted.
“In the past 10 days we have dispersed food that DSS has collected to 52 families and the need continues,” she wrote. “At this time we have not been given a date by the state as to when the system issues with NC FAST will be resolved.”
DSS has held food drives and received assistance from food banks to help in the matter, Merriman told commissioners. “We felt like $3,000 is something we could work with. It's not a magic number, it's a starting number. We've been very much affected. We had a family go without food stamps for three months.”
Commissioner Marcelle Smith said he attended a meeting where Aldona Wos, the secretary of the state department of health and human services was present. “She said we don't have any problems and she didn't know of any county that had any problems. They have no idea what they're doing in Raleigh.”