Enrollment in food aid program declines by 122k despite state’s efforts to address backlog

On January 24, 2024, Clarence Carter, the commissioner of the Department of Human Services, spoke before a Tennessee Senate panel. A photograph captured the moment, showing Carter in action.

Balancing her job with taking care of her disabled three-year-old daughter leaves Heaven Hollinsworth with only one workday per week. She is currently searching for a nurse who can assist her in caring for her child.

As a home healthcare aide, she earns $15 per hour, which helps to fill the financial gap between the disability payments she receives for her daughter and her rent. However, the money doesn’t stretch much beyond that.

Hollinsworth has been attempting to register for Tennessee’s nutrition benefits program, also known as SNAP benefits, for over a year now. Despite applying in late 2022, she has encountered several bureaucratic obstacles along the way.

Last week, Hollinsworth, who is 23 years old, emphasized the significance of getting a grip on the situation, following legal advocates’ intervention to ensure her and her daughter’s inclusion in the program.

“I felt extremely stressed out because of the situation that was completely out of my control. The fact that there was no one to talk to or any place to go to make it worse. On top of that, the wait times were simply ridiculous.”

Thousands of Tennesseans seeking food aid stuck in months-long backlogs this holiday season

Over the past year, Tennessee’s SNAP program, which is managed by the Department of Human Services, has become disorganized due to staffing shortages and issues with a new computer system.

In November, the system was flooded with almost 50,000 pending applications, with 40% of them stuck for over a month, despite the federal rules mandating that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applications should be processed within a 30-day timeframe.

Last week, the officials from the Department of Human Services stated that they are making notable progress in dealing with the backlog when questioned by the Lookout.

By the close of May, the agency was dealing with 22,486 new applications for SNAP that were pending, with 851 of them pending for over 30 days.

Individuals who receive SNAP are required to submit their proof of income and other paperwork every six months to recertify. However, as of June 3rd, there were 14,995 recertification applications pending, with 145 of them waiting for over a month.

In an email statement, Danielle Cotton, the spokesperson for DHS, expressed excitement about being back to a stable state and ready to serve their customers.

According to Signe Anderson, the senior director of nutrition advocacy at the Tennessee Justice Center, her organization is still observing a consistent influx of clients who require assistance in obtaining SNAP benefits. This includes individuals who have been denied access to the benefits, despite meeting the necessary income and other requirements.

Anderson pointed out that Tennessee’s SNAP enrollment has significantly decreased since last year, which is a cause for concern.

According to the data provided by the Department of Human Services, the number of individuals enrolled in SNAP has decreased by 15.2% in the last year. This decline is attributed to the loss of benefits by over 122,000 people, as per the records of enrollees in March every year.

The reason for the enrollment decline was not addressed by a DHS spokesperson upon questioning.

Reference Article

Avatar photo
MBS Staff
Articles: 7651

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *