County officials meet with USDA to discuss FNS processing

From left, NCACC Executive Director Kevin Leonard, Hoke County Commissioner Allen Thomas, Mecklenburg County Assistant Manager Anthony Trotman, Catawba County Commissioner Kitty Barnes, Catawba County DSS Director John Eller, USDA Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Audrey Rowe, NCACC President and Pitt County Commissioner Glen Webb, New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet, NCACC Research Director Linda Millsaps, Guilford County Commissioner Raymond Trapp and Cumberland County Manager Amy Cannon.

naco_hhs meeting
NCACC President Glen Webb of Pitt County led a contingent of county officials from across North Carolina who met with Audrey Rowe, the Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 23.

The delegation discussed North Carolina’s efforts at improving its rate for processing FNS applications. North Carolina county departments of social services are responsible for processing FNS applications, but many counties are struggling to meet federal guidelines for timeliness due to recent changes in technology and a surge in applications, said Dr. Linda Millsaps, NCACC Director of Research.

North Carolina’s fast growing population and the recession caused FNS caseloads to increase by 75% between 2008 and 2013, while Medicaid applications increased by 35 percent from 2008 and 2015, Millsaps said. All these applications have to be processed by DSS personnel, and many counties struggled to keep up with demand.

The USDA has issued a warning to North Carolina that it could lose millions in federal aid if the state is unable to meet the federal standards. President Webb and Commissioner Kitty Barnes (Catawba), Commissioner Allen Thomas (Hoke), Commissioner Ray Trapp (Guilford), Manager Chris Coudriet (New Hanover), Manager Amy Cannon (Cumberland), Assistant Manager Anthony Trotman (Mecklenburg) and DSS Director John Eller (Catawba) shared how their counties are taking steps to improve processing rates. Millsaps showed data compiled by the state Department of Health and Human Services that the statewide processing rate improved from 88% to more than 92% as of early February and is getting closer to the federal standards.

“The NCACC will continue to work with the N.C. DHHS and DSS directors and county managers from all 100 counties until we have reached the federal standards,” said NCACC Executive Director Kevin Leonard. “Counties are working together and with our partners at the USDA and NCDHHS to ensure that this important revenue stream is not lost.”

2016 Economic Services Convening

On May 3-4, 2016, the N.C. Association of County Commissioners hosted a joint economic services convening focused on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps. Each level of government – local, state, federal – has a critical role in the partnership: SNAP is a federal assistance program, supervised by the state DHHS agency, and administered by the counties.

Click here for the 2016 Economic Services Convening: Summary, Recommendations, and County Action Plans report