Georgia Families In Food Crisis Over Delayed SNAP Benefits
Since 2022, thousands of Georgia residents have faced delays in receiving their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, with tens of thousands not getting them on time, 11Alive reports.
The Georgia Department of Human Services has grappled with a backlog issue for a year.
Many Georgians, such as Koren Gibbs, have encountered issues with their SNAP benefits. Although “approved,” the mother of a 4-month-old son has not yet gotten access to food stamps. In her case, as with others, calling a caseworker is futile, as state employees are bombarded with claims due to a staffing shortage.
Gibbs said she had to consider going to a food pantry because of the delay. She called to verify her benefits before shopping and confirmed that the claim still hadn’t been fully processed.
“I’m so glad I called before I went to the store because I would have had a cartful of food and no way to pay for it,” Gibbs said.
The delay in SNAP benefits has affected families across Georgia as they struggle to cope with not having access to food. Some have shared their stories, highlighting the hardship they face and the inadequate response from the authorities.
“For the past two weeks, I’ve had to wake up to ‘Mommy, I’m hungry.’ Or ‘Mommy, we don’t have any food,'” said one parent to 11Alive. Others faced challenges reaching caseworkers or supervisors who could assist.
11Alive has been investigating the issue for a year. As of October 16, more than 119,000 SNAP renewals are pending and 36,915 have exceeded the 30-day processing requirement imposed by federal law.
A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Human Services explained that SNAP benefit renewals are being processed as quickly as possible, starting from the oldest renewal. The department has attempted to better manage the delays by offering overtime to current case specialists and hiring new employees.
“We are also offering stipends to incentivize field leadership staff to carry a caseload,” the spokesperson said. “Since January, we have hired 923 new Economic Support Specialist 1 workers–and secured millions in new funding through legislative advocacy to make that possible.”
However, a caseworker spoke anonymously and expressed concerns about staff turnover, the increased volume of new applications, and the backlog. Although there was some improvement in staffing and caseloads over the summer, the caseloads now appear to be back at similar levels.
Delays in SNAP benefits can have far-reaching consequences, affecting child welfare and parental stress, noted Melissa Carter, executive director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School. Families face difficulty covering essential expenses, and children’s needs often go unmet.
“We know that when those benefits are interrupted or when they’re delayed and certainly when there are extended delays to accessing those benefits, the parents are having to make choices about paying other bills or securing food for children,” Carter told 11Alive . “Tradeoffs like accessing timely and adequate health care, for example, or paying rent, and those issues of healthcare, of housing instability are also issues of basic needs of children and also give rise to concerns and reports about neglect.”