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Food Stamps

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A new report shares that the Alamance County Department of Social Services has started using a new system that will deliver food stamp benefits to clients that are enrolled within the food stamp program. The county was scheduled to start using the NC FAST system in January, but the state provided the county a 30 day extension that would allow DSS to have more time to focus on fully starting the food stamp program, now required by the state. The actual hard launch in the county was on February 18. The new system is designed to allow 100 county DSS departments to improve the way that services will be delivered. NC FAST will also provide access to Medicaid, child welfare, Work First, child care, family services, adult services, and energy assistance benefits through its online program in the future. However, the launch requires for the DSS to recertify around 1,200 food stamp clients, including transferring the data from the paper system to the new electronic system.

Throughout the next six months, it is said that there will be around 2000 cases that will be converted into the system each month. This month, it’s expected that some of the benefits will be delayed. The delay is mainly because of the amount of time that it takes to convert each case – namely with the conversion process starting to run behind schedule. The conversion requires 31 steps per case and generally takes around an average of 90 minutes per case to complete. As a result, the DSS staff has been forced to work overtime in order to ensure that many of the cases would be completed in time.

There are numerous counties which have implemented the use of the soft and hard launches of NC FAST since the previous year. The state is allowing counties to use their old paper systems to ensure that they will be able to provide food stamp benefits simultaneously as NC is experiencing a soft launch. This way, they will have the opportunity to get used to the new system while still having the previous information and cases provided from the old system. Additionally, the DSS has even created a crisis pantry to help make food available for individuals who are not receiving their food stamp benefits on time due to the issues with the system in the upcoming weeks.

The food is said to be available for pickup at the crisis pantry by 4:30 pm every Friday. Case workers are getting in touch with local food pantries in the area to see if referrals and other forms of assistance can be made during this period as well. DSS is also trying to determine whether they will be hiring temporary works for data entry to help improve the process of the conversion from the old system to the new system. This conversion will take time and patience to be implemented properly, but the benefits will be worth the time.

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