The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC


January 8, 2014

DSS pleas to county for help

TARBORO — The Edgecombe County Department of Social Services Advisory Board is pleading for the county to hire part-time employees to assist with the heavy workload that was brought about by the state program, NC FAST (North Carolina Families Assessing Services through Technology).

A letter from the DSS Advisory Board to the county Human Services Board dated Dec. 5, stated that employees working in the NC FAST system have accumulated 1,920.81 unpaid overtime hours. The letter, which did not specify how many employees worked the overtime, was forward to the Edgecombe County Commissioners where they discussed the issue during their Monday night regularly scheduled meeting.

"These extended hours have become very taxing on their health as well as their family life, the letter states. "Many staff are exhausted and have voiced to management that they do not know how much longer they can go on this way."

The letter proposed hiring at least six temporary employees at a rate of $8 per hour, 40 hours per week for 26 weeks and pay overtime employees. The proposal would cost the county approximately $49,902.

NC FAST was designed to be a faster method for the state to process food stamp claims.

One of the problems included untimely processing food stamp claims. It has been reported that families outside of Edgecombe have gone at least two weeks without receiving their benefits.

According to Edgecombe County Manager Lorenzo Carmon significant delays  in Edgecombe has been held to a minimum.

"Since we've been doing NC FAST, we had about three phone calls," he said. "When we looked at what was going on, the individuals didn't submit paper work in a timely manner. But some of this (delay) is going to be our fault."

 The Rev. Roosevelt Higgs, a community activist and former employee of the county DSS department, attended Monday's meeting. Higgs believes that it has been more than three cases. He spoke poignantly to the board about Edgecombe County clients not receiving their allocations.

"NC FAST is really North Carolina slow. It may eventually get fast but right now it's slow, Higgs said. "We've did a survey. Our survey found that churches in Edgecombe County churches give $4,000 to $6,000 to families that are eligible for food stamps but have not gotten their food stamps because their cases have not been processed. The churches should not be picking up the responsibility of the county because the county should be making sure that it has sufficient staff to make sure the clients gets their benefits."

Vice Chairman Commissioner Jonathon Felton immediately responded.

"Rev. Higgs, I feel like I need to say to you, you are preaching to the choir," he said. "We believe that these people are extremely worthy and we're doing everything we can. This is a step in that direction right here. It's not an Edgecombe County problem, its a state wide problem. ... I can assure you that we don't want to see nobody in Edgecombe County go hungry."

There was no action taken or expected to be taken on the issue. Chairman Leonard Wiggins said hiring temporary employees is not an issue that the board should make. He said it is the county manager's job and if he chose to staff new employees, the board would not object to it.

Carmon told the board he will review the issue and bring back recommendations at the February meeting.

"We can find the money to hire temporary staff or contract staff to help do those things,"  he said. "We'll try to see what we can do to relieve some of these folks who work overtime."


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