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Food Stamp Frustration

Signs of a rough economy are everywhere, but none more pronounced than at the El Paso County Department of Human Services. The downtown office is where folks go who need food assistance... what used to be known as food stamps.
One of them... 61 year old Marilyn Denmark, who called us looking for help.
Marilyn says her calls to human services went nowhere so we drove her to the office. Even though she turned in her paperwork late she received immediate assistance. Within hours she had a food assistance debit card... filled with dollars from Uncle Sam.
Later, Marilyn was able to stock up at her local Wal-Mart getting items she hadn't eaten in months.
Marilyn says, "So many times people in government...they don't mean to... they kind of forget what it's like to be on the other end of the pipeline."
David Oliver is another recipient desperate for help.
David says, "This is what I was going to use right here."
David brought his bike lock to the office, threatening to chain himself to a chair... to get answers.
He adds, "Between me, the grumpy old dude and News 11 taking an interest in my case... things got turned around and they turned it around and got everything taken care of."
Statistics show... 16-thousand El Paso County families are currently enrolled in the federal food assistance program... with 200 families being added every month.
Increased demand has created a backlog... often forcing families to wait longer than the seven or 30 day approval period.
The caseload for technicians... the highest of any county in the state.... add in a complicated system requiring training... resulting in high turnover... and you've got problems.
Human Services Director, Barbara Drake says, "We're working very hard to get caught up because we know w'ere coming into the winter months when there's an increased demand for food stamps."
Drake says some changes have been made to speed up the process. She wanted to pass along these two numbers for folks frustrated by the wait. The Quality Assurance number is 444-5544 and her number is 444-5532.


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