Still slow at DHHS

From an editorial in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

Once more, federal officials are threatening to pull funds because they say N.C. health officials are too slow approving applications for food stamps. Such applications are supposed to be approved within 30 days. But North Carolina still has what a USDA regional administrator, Robin Bailey Jr., says is “chronically poor performance” in getting the applications done on time.

DHHS officials believe the job is getting done. Deputy Secretary Sherry Bradsher says that more demand for services and the bumpy rollout of a technology program, NCFAST, to consolidate the delivery of help have complicated things but that the state is getting benefits out.

The federal government requires that the state meet its requirement for timeliness in processing benefits 95 percent of the time. State officials say things are improving, and they will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get things up to speed.

Doubtless DHHS wants to deliver what people need and are due, but the Republican General Assembly’s disregard for the poor, manifested by a failure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and cuts to unemployment benefits, raises suspicions that helping poor families isn’t a high priority for legislative leaders or Gov. Pat McCrory.

If the federal government has a moral and legal obligation to help people who need it with food assistance, the least the state can do is run the program with the sense of urgency it deserves.