Georgia families struggling with SNAP benefits benefit during Thanksgiving week

The Department of Human Services provided 11Alive with an update on when people may receive SNAP benefits.

ATLANTA — It’s Thanksgiving week — and Georgia families are still waiting for SNAP benefits.

Over the past week, 11Alive has recorded dozens of people reaching out to understand why they didn’t receive their November benefits. The federally funded program helps low-income households pay for groceries. Some families said while waiting for benefits they must choose between paying their bills or having food on the table.

The state originally sent 11Alive this statement:

“The federal government has approved Georgia’s waiver request to extend SNAP benefits for customers with outstanding renewals from August through October 2022 by no more than six months. Our vendor managing the gateway portal will be working all weekend to make the appropriate system updates to trigger benefits for these customers ahead of Thanksgiving.

To support families in Georgia, the November SNAP benefits originally scheduled for Wednesday, November 23rd will be delivered on Monday, November 21st.

It’s Monday, November 21st, and mother-of-two Samantha Abrams said the issue hasn’t been resolved yet.

“What am I going to do for my kids for Thanksgiving? It’s crazy that I have to go through this and I actually need to hear my kids tell me they’re hungry or are we sitting somewhere and I can hear their stomachs growling,” Abrams said.

Abrams spoke to 11Alive earlier this month as she waited for her SNAP benefits to show up in her account. It’s been almost two weeks since then – and still nothing.

“At the end of the day, they go home with a full fridge, maybe a full freezer, but if you think about the low-income people out here, we don’t have that luxury right now because it’s such a simple fact that we don’t have our advantages,” she added.

Abrams said the Department of Human Services told her she would see the benefits in her account Monday morning. She contacted 11Alive again when that didn’t happen.

“It got so bad I even had to go to a blackboard,” she said. “I took my kids over to my brother’s weekend so they could eat. It’s getting crazy because I don’t have to go through those things if I’m going to get my benefits.”

Angela Macon, also a mother of two, echoed that panic. Your account does not show a date when your next benefits will be available. All she wants are answers.

“Am I using my utility bill money and trying to make it up later? I pull from my emergency jar – there’s not much in it. Some people will have to choose between paying their rent or buying groceries for their children,” Macon said.

Many of the people who have contacted 11Alive appear to be having an issue after their benefits are up for renewal, although they say they submitted their paperwork on time.

DHS, which is responsible for distributing federal funds, attributed the delays to an increase in applications and a labor shortage.

On Monday, the agency said people with pending renewals from August through October should defer their renewals to February and receive benefits in the meantime.

Aside from when people are due to receive benefits on the 23rd of each month, the agency said beneficiaries should receive them on Monday, November 21.

DHS project customers are being caught up by Thanksgiving.

“Even if they came sometime this week, what are people supposed to do? Should they wait until 5 p.m. when the shops close? The day before Thanksgiving? You can’t prepare like that,” Macon added with tears in his eyes.

Here is the full statement from the DHS:

Customers with pending renewals from August through October 2022 who have completed their paperwork will postpone their renewals to February and receive benefits in the meantime. We continue to process cases and all customers should continue to return their renewal packages, requested information and any Department requested verification checklists (VCLs), particularly if they have not done so and are due to be renewed in November.

Anyone who has returned their renewal package will receive benefits for the preceding months between August and October 2022. If a customer’s case was closed in September for not submitting their renewal package, they will not be covered. Customers who are not affected by a pending renewal and would normally receive benefits on the 23rd of each month will receive their benefits today. Deloitte, our gateway provider, is working on a technology solution where customers are predicted to be caught up by the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) worked with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning to use data provided by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to manage benefits.

In a statement, FNS informs 11Alive:

FNS continues to work with the state to help identify various exemptions and options to reduce some of the administrative burden. Funding from the American Rescue Plan Act is available to assist with recruitment and retention strategies as needed.