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Monitoring the food stamps problem

State Sens. Judith Zaffirini and Tommy Williams will be keeping an eye on the food stamps situation.

Zaffirini said in an interview that she and Williams will work with Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs on hiring more enrollment workers — as well as training and retaining them — and improving communication between state and local offices.

“Hiring personnel in and of itself will not solve the problem,” Zaffirini said.

The state is not meeting federal food stamp standards, which require applications to be processed within 30 days (and seven for emergency applications). In September, Texas failed to process 41.4 percent of applications by the federal government’s deadline. The federal government — which pays for all the food and half the administrative costs of the program — has told Texas to speed up application processing or risk losing federal funds.

Zaffirini said she told Suehs she wants to see weekly progress reports and a timeline for the hiring.

“We need to ensure that the people who are eligible for the services are receiving them in a timely period,” she said.

[…]

Zaffirini said she thinks the state should be collaborating more closely with food banks.

Officials with the Texas Food Bank Network this week sent a letter to federal food stamp officials, saying that programs such as food stamps should not rely on non-profits to address their staffing needs.

“We worry that an over-reliance on comparatively small organizations like ours, while an obvious immediate solution, may divert attention and urgency from the broader, more fundamental failures in our state’s application system,” says the letter from Eric Cooper and Jan Pruitt of the Network to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s William Ludwig.

You can see the letter the Food Bank network wrote here (PDF). I think they’re right to be concerned that they’ll be depended on for more that they can give. We’ve been dealing with this on the cheap all along, I don’t see why anyone should expect it to be different now. Zaffirini and Williams may be able to make a difference at the margins for the time being, but nothing will change until the state’s leadership does.

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2 Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    I would just like to say that the food stamp situation is not getting better in TEXAS! I am a single mother (3 kids)with no job and my mother is paying my landlord and I am in school full time. It took two weeks for me to get expedited stamps & now they are cut again. One of the problems is there are too many people from within the foodstamp office not doing their job. They talk to people like garbage who are applying and on top of that they act as if they are taking money from their own pockets. I sat on the phone on hold for 2 and a half hours waiting for an answer at my local office and never got an answer. Guess what, the reason for me not getting benefits was that someone forgot to take the hold CODE off of my case. The only reason I found that out was because I went there and sat in the waiting room for two more hours just to speak to a supervisor. I think though there is a litte more happening than just people not doing their job’s. I wonder what happens to all the aide that is’nt disbursed to recipients? I tell, you I called the Ombudsman department and filed a report last month. I got my stamp’s that day. I was kind of shocked though to hear the angry woman on the other end taking up for the food stamp office by saying we are overworked! Who’s fault is that? Is it mine? No…. I tell you ,I may be a food stamp recipient but I am a born citizen of this country and am entitled to assistance if needed. Why can’t I get stamp’s? Tonite my children’s dinner menu consist of canned lima beans and white rice. What are the great worker’s of Texas having?

  2. Heather says:

    This is the first time I’ve really had a problem with getting food stamps. I’ve been on them for a couple of years now. They were delayed by about a week once before, but this is ridiculous. Now I’m unemployed and haven’t found anything to replace my job – so I really need the help more than usual to feed myself and my son (who has Autism, not that it matters at all to the Food Stamp office).
    I turned in the paperwork to review my case on the 24th of September. The next day (good) I got my telephone interview appointment letter – the appointment? November THIRD (bad – that’s when I usually receive my food stamps!)! So I did the telephone interview, and the worker needed a couple of documents. No problem. I marched right up there that day and turned them in – I even got a receipt. So it shouldn’t take but a couple-few days to enter that into a computer, right? Wrong. So I call the Lonestar card number to see if my food stamps have posted yet. Nothing. So I call my caseworker and leave a message to find out the status… maybe I did something wrong somehow and didn’t get approved. No reply. So I leave two more messages over the course of the next week. Nothing. I keep calling the operator to find out why my calls aren’t being answered. No answer there, either – for two days I try this. So I drive all the way there (the closest office is over 30 minutes from my home – eating up extra money I don’t have for gas, because I’m needing it to feed my son and myself) to be answered rudely by the obviously very busy operator/receptionist/whatever. I simply asked, as I was signing in, whether I would be able to speak with my case worker or a supervisor… she just kept saying to sign in. Like it would take longer than 2 seconds to say yes or no. So I signed in. When my name was called, I explained what had happened and was told that my caseworker was out of the office for a funeral (fine, understandable – why isn’t someone picking up her slack, though?) and would not be in the office until the following Monday. Okay… I can possibly deal with waiting until Monday, that’s only six days after I’m supposed to have gotten my food stamps. Maybe we can wing it for that long. I did ask to speak with a supervisor, just to see if maybe something else can be done, but am told that this office SHARES a supervisor with another office, and that she is at the other office – even further away. So I get her number, just in case. Then Monday comes and goes, more unanswered phone calls – to the case worker, to the operator, to the supervisor, to the operator at the other office. Finally, I do speak with the operator at the other office, who hands me off to someone else, who explains that the supervisor is in training and won’t be in the office until the next day. She says she will email this supervisor and my worker, and that I should call the next day. This is now three days in a row I have had this conversation… the worker is finally back in the office as of Wednesday.
    Since I’m getting the runaround, I look up on the internet to see if anyone else is having troubles to read your post, Jenny. I’d never heard of an ombudsman, but decided to give it a shot. I didn’t get the same results as you, unfortunately. I was told to call the Regional Headquarters. After waiting on a ringing line for about an hour, THEY told me that the paperwork hadn’t been approved by the supervisor yet, a totally different person than the “supervisor” information my office’s operator had given to me. So I just called her and the voice mail says their office is closed due to an emergency situation. Here’s an emergency situation for you: thousands upon thousands of people suddenly and unexpectedly without a source of income for food.
    I just don’t know what else I can do.
    Right now I have enough to either pay my phone bill (already behind on the rent, and don’t have enough for that) or put food in my house for a few days…
    Like your children, Jenny, my son will not be eating like he’s used to. I “splurged” and bought milk, bread, eggs, spaghetti noodles, and spaghetti sauce today – that’s tonight’s dinner. After that, I think I have some noodles and canned vegetables in the cupboards. Not much else. Thank God for school breakfasts and lunches, but this next week, we won’t even have that, as it’s a holiday week.