Workers at the Cumberland County Department of Social Services are working 11-1/2 hours a day and some weekends to clear a backlog in the food assistance program.
Nearly 900 people are caught in a backlog of the program. That means they are not getting the assistance commonly called food stamps.
Several other counties around North Carolina also have a backlog, and they are all related to the state's relatively new computer system called NC FAST (Families Accessing Services through Technology).
The statewide backlog prompted the USDA to threaten withholding funds from the food assistance program if the state does not clear the backlog by Feb. 10.
Brenda Jackson, Cumberland County's Department of Social Service director, said those federal funds pay for 50 percent of the cost to administer the program locally
In addition to the extra hours, even when the department closed because of weather last week, 30 employees took home laptops to continue working. Five assistants from the state office and other additional workers are also on hand in the Fayetteville office.
Cumberland County's social services workers are also working Saturday and Sunday in hopes of meeting Monday's deadline.
Despite that effort, the delay is still around three months for some people caught in the backlog.
"What am I supposed to do without my food stamps card for 90 days?" asked food stamps recipient Stephen Rivera. "I don't have a job, but I am currently looking for employment. What am I supposed to do for 90 days, rob and steal? I can't do that."
Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.More>>