NC FAST Glitches Result In Food Assistance Delays
North Carolina Families Accessing Services through Technology, a program meant to streamline social services, has been plagued with issues since it's release.
- North Carolina is in the process of working out the kinks of a new program that will integrate and streamline social service needs like food stamps and medicaid. NC FAST, or North Carolina Families Accessing Services through Technology, was officially introduced in January 2012. Since it's statewide release, residents in several of North Carolina's 100 counties have experienced delays in receiving food benefits(SNAP- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), with some instances recurring over a period of months.
- Social service departments across North Carolina are hiring additional staff, working longer hours, and participating in trainings. One file can take up to 60-90 minutes to enter into the new system, adding another issue of backlogs for NCFAST. There are over 3,000 overdue applications in Wake County despite measures taken to build a stronger and more efficient workforce. According to News&Observer, North Carolina is required by law to incorporate Medicaid enrollment by October 1, which could potentially cause additional problems on a larger scale.
- The delays in SNAP benefits have resulted in overcrowding of soup kitchens in several counties with some pantries unable to provide for the increased amount of need. Wake County Human Services and the United Way of The Greater Triangle have tapped in to emergency funding, providing over $50,000 to replenish local food banks. If the proper attention is not given to resolve the issues with NC FAST, problems could get worse when the state is forced to integrate other services like child care subsidies. This could result in additional glitches and increased backlogs.
- Many residents blame the issues on government officials, specifically targeting Governor Patt McCrory for not sufficiently focusing on NC FAST. Several North Carolinians are speaking out about the food stamp delay by reaching out to local news providers, writing on message boards, and expressing their concerns through social media.
- NC officials have recognized the need to fix the flawed system but predict that a solution will not be met until the end of this year meaning more families will have to wait for food assistance. When fixed, NCFAST could be a tremendous help to social service departments by providing a document management system that will ultimately save time for case workers and applicants. The purpose of the program is to improve the way information is accessed for the North Carolina Department of Health and Services and county social service departments.
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