A local church mission stepped up this month to help needy families where public funds could not.
In November, the Scotland County Department of Social Services implemented a state-mandated food and nutrition services computer system called NC FAST. The program is designed to decrease paperwork and create more time for DSS staff to spend with those seeking assistance.
In the process, the cases of each of the 5,000 families receiving assistance through Scotland County DSS must be converted to a new format, or essentally entered into the system from scratch with additional information.
To assist with administering the transition, DSS has hired seven temporary employees using a Generation YZ grant from the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce. Despite the efforts of DSS and its staff, the conversion has increased wait times for food stamps to up to 30 days from the time of application.
“DSS staff have been diligently working many overtime hours in pursuit of approving all qualified applications and recertifications,” said James McQueen, financial services adminsitrator at Scotland County DSS.
In response to the quandary of those left temporarily without food stamps, Westminster Church Missions board members Johnny Brown, James Ward, and Dr. Randy Bridges purchased more than $6,000 in Food Lion gift cards to be distributed to those households adversely affected by the NC FAST system.
“There’s a need in the county for those people who didn’t get their food stamps on time,” Brown said. “At Christmas time people need their benefits - they need something.”
The cards are being distributed to some 250 families whose benefit applications have yet to be processed. McQueen said that inquiries should not be made about obtaining cards, as qualifying families were notified by DSS directly.
“Scotland County DSS is contacting the families that meet the qualifications outlined by the board members and coordinating the distribution of cards,” said McQueen. “DSS appreciates the thoughtfulness and actions of these board members to assist families during this vital time of transition.”