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Customer spike at food pantries as DSS software change delays food stamps

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TWC News: Customer spike at food pantries as DSS software change delays food stamps
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BELMONT, N.C. – A delay in food stamp benefits is overwhelming some local food pantries.

A number of counties in North Carolina are using new software to help streamline the Department of Social Services and the conversion to the new program is causing some food stamp recipients to wait weeks.

Nancy Myers, the manager of Socks, a charity food pantry in Belmont, is up to her eyeballs in paperwork. Since the start of the year, she's offered a helping hand to 30 percent more people than expected.

“With the food stamp situation like it is, people are coming in more often for food because their food stamps are tied up,” she said.

Gayle Pate, the economic services coordinator for the Gaston County DSS, says the delays are due to a new state system called NC FAST. The software is intended to eventually streamline all DSS programs.

Her staff is in the process of transferring client information but she says it takes a lot of time to convert all of the old system into the new one. One client conversion can take as long as three hours.

Pate's entire department, including temporary employees, are entering information in addition to their normal duties. She says delays are expected for the next six months to a year.

NC FAST is only being used in select counties but the entire state will be utilizing it by 2014.

The Mecklenburg County DSS hasn't started using the new software. A spokesperson says they could experience delays when it goes online this spring.

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