Yet another (bad) way in which our state has distinguished itself.
Federal officials say Texas should appoint a food stamp czar to take charge of fixing the application backlogs and high error rates plaguing the program.
“All states are feeling the pinch right now because of the economic recession, but I’m not aware of any state that is having it to the degree that Texas is,” said William Ludwig, a Dallas-based regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.
Ludwig, who rarely gives interviews, oversees food stamps for Texas and four other states. He attributed the state’s problems last week to a “whole series of missteps, mismanagement over the last four years,” starting with thousands of state workers getting pink slips in advance of a massive privatization effort.
Gosh. What might have happened four years ago? Let me think…
[Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom] Suehs, who became commissioner Sept. 1, met last week with supervisors from across the state and said he was shocked to learn how frequently employees were working overtime, staying late and coming in on the weekends. The state spent $2.5 million in August on overtime for enrollment workers.
Texas wasn’t always in this position.
From 1998 to 2004, the federal government gave the state bonus payments for payment accuracy. Last year, Texas had a higher error rate than the national average.
Some of the worker shortage dates to fall 2005, when former Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins informed 2,900 eligibility workers that they wouldn’t have a job after the start of a Legislature-mandated privatization plan. Though officials later decided to retain some of the workers, many had already left.
“The key thing that happened that has really led to us being here is the state gave pink slips” to workers, Ludwig said. “Those were the senior employees who understood the system.”