ATLANTA - As the State of Georgia sits on a $10.7 billion budget surplus, its food assistance program struggles to function.
SNAP benefit recipients outside the Department of Health’s DeKalb County location on Monday said the backlog in delays leaves them at risk of having nothing to eat for Thanksgiving.
"I have 38 cents on that card meaning that I am not able to really provide any food at all," said Tiffany Macey.
She was one of a handful of people in line who said they received an email letting them know their application was approved at the beginning of the month. The week of Thanksgiving, she said she hadn’t received a dime and couldn’t reach a real person over the phone or online.
Macey said she stood in line for hours and still hadn’t found a solution.
Kylie Winton, the communications director for the Georgia Department of Human Services, acknowledged the massive backlog, adding staff "recognize the impact this has on individuals and families, and our agency is actively working to expedite the resolution of the backlog and to enhance our service delivery."
Winton said that in general, people should get the money on the date listed on their account as soon as they are approved, and generally they call people back within a day.
"If a customer has been approved and does not receive benefits on their issuance date, we encourage them to let us know so that we can look into it.," Winton said in an email.
Macey said she tried that and couldn't get a hold of anyone. Speaking to others in line, her story wasn't unique.
"I done call and called, it went to voicemail," said Barbara Clay, a Lithonia resident who also stood in line Monday. "Dropped. Called again, voicemail. Dropped."
Clay said she found out the hard way about the statewide dysfunction at the grocery store – in the checkout line.
"I went inside the grocery store and just to my surprise, tried to do my shopping. [The EBT balance was] $0.64," Clay said. "I have a special-needs child and a mother to feed."
She said unless something changes between now and Thursday, Thanksgiving dinner will be frozen lasagna.
"I mean it’s the holidays," Macey said. "A lot of us have fallen on hard times, and we are in need. And this is how they treat people that are in need."
Right around this time last year, FOX 5 reported on long lines in the rain outside the same SNAP office, dealing with the same renewal delays right before Thanksgiving.
Winton, the DHS spokesperson, said they’re working seven days a week to fix the system and have hired a thousand extra workers to help with the mess since the beginning of the year.