Georgians paid missed food stamps in time for Thanksgiving

State officials say they’ve cleared a backlog of owed payments

Countless Georgia families who were desperately waiting for their food stamps got them just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, after payments were delayed by weeks, and in some cases, months.

“Thank you Jesus, I just got my stamps,” said one commenter on the state Department of Human Services’ official Facebook page. “We can have Thanksgiving dinner.”

State officials said that an increased demand for food assistance and fewer workers to process applications resulted in a massive backlog of people who were owed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, more commonly known as food stamps. The Department of Human Services, which oversees the program, said Wednesday that they have paid out what people are owed in bulk sums, after receiving an extension from the federal government.

DHS would not give an estimate of how many people were impacted by the delays, and couldn’t provide an exact number of Georgians who receive food assistance. As of June, more than 900,000 households were receiving SNAP benefits, averaging $336 a month, according to the state’s website.

In the comments on the DHS Facebook page, some people expressed their gratitude while at the same time saying this never should have happened in the first place. The delayed payments forced people to skip meals and forgo paying bills, posters said. The AJC reached out to several SNAP beneficiaries on Wednesday who spoke about their personal struggles on the public-facing Facebook page. But none of them wanted to be quoted and identified in our reporting.

Kylie Winton, a spokesperson for DHS, said on Wednesday that benefits were processed for anyone enrolled in the food assistance program, and had pending renewals from August to October of this year, assuming they completed their paperwork in a timely fashion.

But some Georgians said they still had not received their food stamps, despite sending in the proper paperwork on time. Dorrine Armstrong, from Statesboro, Ga, said in an interview that she hasn’t gotten paid for two months, even though she completed her renewal on time in September.

“I don’t know what’s going on, the last time I got my food stamps was in September,” said Armstrong, who is 65. “I either have to pay a bill, or buy something to eat.”

Armstrong said she’s called her caseworker repeatedly, but the caseworker’s voicemail is full. She’s also tried the caseworker’s supervisor, whose voicemail is also full.

“I can’t get through to talk to anybody,” she said. “I just haven’t been able to make ends meet. I’ve been struggling to get food.”

Last week, more and more Georgians were reporting that they had not received their food stamps in the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Then on Friday, the federal government approved a request from Georgia’s Division of Family & Children Services, the agency that administers SNAP benefits, to extend the eligibility of those who have renewals pending with the state for six months. This allowed the state to temporarily bypass a step in the approval process, and pay out people rapidly.

DHS said that Georgians who did their renewals during August to October will now have their renewal process moved to February, and continue to receive benefits in the interim.

Winton, the DHS spokesperson, also said that applicants should continue to submit their paperwork when they typically would, to ensure there are no further delays.