New Hanover County – New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet, along with other North Carolina county representatives, met with Audrey Rowe, the Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in Washington, D.C. on February 23.
Led by North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) President Glen Webb of Pitt County, the delegation discussed North Carolina’s efforts at improving its rate for processing FNS applications. North Carolina county departments of social services are responsible for processing FNS applications, but many counties are struggling to meet federal guidelines for timeliness due to recent changes in technology and a surge in applications, said Dr. Linda Millsaps, NCACC Director of Research.
“We are very grateful to NCACC for arranging this meeting during the NACo Legislative Conference,” said Coudriet. “It is important to be able to raise operational and policy issues with a senior administration official and our Congressional delegation, allowing us to share a local perspective with federal officials.”
North Carolina’s fast-growing population and the recession caused FNS caseloads to increase by 75% between 2008 and 2013, while Medicaid applications increased by 35 percent from 2008 and 2015, Millsaps said. All of these applications have to be processed by department of social services personnel, and many counties struggled to keep up with demand.
The USDA has issued a warning to North Carolina that it could lose millions in federal aid if the state is unable to meet the federal standards. NCACC President Webb along with county commissioners, social services directors, and county managers shared how their counties are taking steps to improve processing rates. Millsaps showed data compiled by the state Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) that the statewide processing rate improved from 88% to more than 92% as of early February and is getting closer to the federal standards.
As of February 12, New Hanover County was 90 percent in its timeliness measure. However, the County has a plan in place to ensure the targeted 95 percent goal is reached soon and sustained.
“The NCACC will continue to work with the N.C. DHHS and DSS directors and county managers from all 100 counties until we have reached the federal standards,” said NCACC Executive Director Kevin Leonard. “Counties are working together and with our partners at the USDA and NCDHHS to ensure that this important revenue stream is not lost.”
Communications & Outreach Coordinator