Inflation and a workforce shortage have caused an increase in SNAP applications and renewals, Winton said, causing a backlog of approvals. She said the agency was unable to say how many applications had been delayed in recent months.
Last Friday, she said, the federal government approved a request from the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services, the agency that administers SNAP benefits, to extend the eligibility of those who have renewals pending with the state by six months. The Department of Homeland Security was unable to provide an exact number of Georgians receiving food assistance. As of June, more than 900,000 families were receiving SNAP benefits, an average of $336 per month, according to the state’s website.
“Our vendor who operates the … portal will be working through the weekend to make the appropriate system updates to drive benefits to these customers before the Thanksgiving holiday,” Winton said Friday.
These payments are expected to be distributed this week.
Cathy Islar, 60, said in an interview that she had not received food stamps in two months.
As of this week, she has been told she is completely denied food stamps, because she did not submit the proper paperwork. She says she turned in her papers in person before the deadline. Now her case is closed.
Islar, who has diabetes, said she couldn’t afford essential healthy groceries out of her pocket. She lives on a steady income in Statesboro, and now tries to make trips to the food banks. But she said she doesn’t always have a way to get there.
“It’s hard, it’s very hard,” she said. “You sit here and fight your tears and your pain because you never know when you’re going to get something decent to eat.”
Jovi Iovine and his wife rely on $800 a month in paycheck and food stamps as a way to feed their two children. He tried to renew food stamps last month, and has yet to receive any indication that the renewal will go through. Iovine, whose family lives in Nashville, Georgia, fears they will have to forgo food for the holidays.
“I don’t think it’s fair for my kids not to have Thanksgiving,” said Yovin, 37. “We’re fine, for the moment. But in a week, there’ll be nothing left for the kids.”
Yuvin said his family called five different phone numbers in the past week and were unable to get any answers. Then on Monday the family spoke with a worker at the local DFCS office who said they would get the money before the Thursday holiday. As of Tuesday morning, they still haven’t received their paycheck.
“We were thinking about it because we’ve been doing a lot of research. We’ve been trying to get anyone who works at SNAP services to help us.” “We have been trying for more than a week.”
At the state level, the Department of Homeland Security offers staff additional time to make sure these requests are processed. Winton also said that recipients should continue to file the appropriate paperwork on time, so they can clear the backlog before the federal government’s extension expires.
Going forward, Winton said the department will work with the federal government to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“We continue to explore ways to secure more flexibility from the federal government to process cases faster and more efficiently,” Winton said.