SNAP beneficiaries experiencing delays in El Paso County
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - People in Colorado Springs attempting to re-enroll for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits tell me their applications won’t be processed for six-to-eight weeks.
Maya Graham, a Colorado Springs resident, says that this re-enrollment cycle has been the most difficult for her since she enrolled in the program.
“This has been the worst re-certification period that I’ve had to deal with.”
She is one of tens of thousands of people in El Paso County who rely on the SNAP program to ease the burden of ever rising grocery bills. State law requires that new applicants be processed within 30 days, but no such law exists for re-enrollees.
“I’m a single mom. I don’t get child support. I just live off of my income, and that’s it. I depend on the state for help when I can’t get a decent job with decent pay.”
The program is run by the El Paso County Department of Human Services. They tell me the delays have been caused by both a staffing shortage and more people than ever enrolling in the program since the start of the COVID pandemic.
“Since COVID has started, we have seen more than 30% increase in our workload.”
Karen Logan, the Economic and Administrative Services Director for El Paso County DHS says the department has been able to make several hires recently to help fill its staff, but it can take months before these new workers are equipped to handle a caseload.
“We’ve got about half of our staff that are new. The other half have been here a long time, but in terms of breakdown of workload, those that have been here a long time are doing 90% of the work. Because newer people aren’t able to be up to the speed that we would need for them to be able to process a whole caseload.”
She hopes that a new waiver program, just granted to the department, can help battle the current backlog.
“These waivers that we applied for are allowing us to waive interviews. The requirement to interview people in order to process them for benefits, for people that are turning in information and have provided all of the documentation and everything that we need to process. We can go ahead and process without doing an interview.”
SNAP beneficiaries have to re-apply for benefits every six months, and conduct an interview once a year. Logan says the interview process is roughly two-thirds of the total application and approval time.
“About two-thirds of the time is spent doing interviews. So we’re able to cut those back as of today, and we should start seeing some significant progress in getting that backlog down.”
“If it helps us in the way that we think it will, we will be able to have cases pending for no longer than 14 days. That’s the hope.”
But in the meantime, families in El Paso County may have a harder time paying for groceries while they wait for their applications to be processed.
“Certainly we always want to make referrals to people to use some of our community supports. Care and Share helps out a great deal in this community. They are monumental in helping people fill those gaps.”
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