Monday is the day: our state office in charge of approving food assistance claims has to be caught up on the back log. The risk of failing at the task could prove devastating for pantries and stomachs statewide.
The USDA has threatened to pull $88 million in funding for the program as soon as March 12th of this year.
On January 23rd, Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos got a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture which said the state had to complete all applications that had been waiting for an answer for 90 days.
Applications are supposed to be handled within 30 days, but some applicants had been waiting triple the time and still had no decision.
The USDA set Monday, February 10th as the deadline to get the cases caught up.
On Friday, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Wayne Black addressed the catch up work saying, "Counties made tremendous gains last weekend when their staff could focus exclusively on processing applications and recertifications."
At last check, Pitt County was among the counties with the highest number of untouched applications.
A backlog in food stamp cases statewide has 80 staffers in Greenville working overtime.
Case managers must complete those applications before Monday or risk losing about 88-million dollars in funding.
Interim Director Earl Marett says folks around here will be fine, but the problem isn't just in Eastern Carolina - it's statewide.
Ultimately, he says his team is making progress - but those who rely on food stamps to eat say they're still worried.
The funding from the USDA accounts for 50-percent of the administration costs to process food stamp applications.