Food stamp backlog makes Thanksgiving difficult for some Georgians

As of Wednesday, more than 22,000 benefit renewals had not yet been processed — keeping those recipients from receiving their benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

As of Wednesday, more than 22,000 benefit renewals had not yet been processed — keeping those recipients from receiving their benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

A state backlog has delayed tens of thousands of food stamp recipients from receiving their benefits this month.

Officials at Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services say the backlog began a few months ago with an increase in families applying for food stamps. DFCS oversees the state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.

As of Wednesday, more than 22,000 benefit renewals had not yet been processed — keeping those recipients from receiving the money.

That’s a tough position to be in at this time of year, with family gatherings for the holidays kicking off Thursday with Thanksgiving, said Ife Finch Floyd of the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

“When you live on such narrow margins — you have rent, you have child care, you have gas — you don’t always have that elasticity in your finances to afford enough food,” Floyd said. “In many households, if it’s not the whole (food) budget, it’s a significant number.”

DFCS officials said they have put policies in place — such as offering overtime and stipends and bringing back retired caseworkers — to help them process the food stamp renewals and applications.

“In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we have continued to work tirelessly to process customers’ SNAP renewals and eliminate the backlog,” DFCS spokeswoman Kylie Winton said. “Unfortunately, there are still some overdue renewals.”

DFCS provided SNAP benefits to nearly 700,000 households in June, the most recent data made available by the division.

The benefit is a “really important resource for families who are facing food insecurity,” said Kyle Waide, president and CEO of the Atlanta Food Bank.

Waide said he began to see an increased need at food banks across the state about 18 months ago, which he attributed to inflation. In that time he said the amount of food given out increased by 40%.

“We cannot say what the impact of the backlog is,” Waide said. “What we can say is inflation is creating a real significant amount of demand to the community and, as a result of that, food banks are seeing longer lines of people who need help from us and we’re distributing more food than we ever have.”

Winton said DFCS will continue to work to process renewals as quickly as it can. In the meantime she directed those needing assistance to a list of community resources found at dhs.georgia.gov.

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