ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Kihayla Soloye hasn’t been able to get any answers over the phone.
After weeks of waiting, on Tuesday morning she drove to the Round Rock Health and Human Services Food Stamp Office hoping to talk to someone after delays in getting what she described as a necessary benefit.
“Usually it’s a one-day process, and they process it and get me some help right away, but they told me to wait 30 to 45 days, which I thought I didn’t hear the lady right. Like I was, ’30 to 45 days?’ And she was like, ‘yeah,'” Soloye explained.
She has been trying since May to renew her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP food benefits.
“I have a 3-year-old son, you know, gas has been almost $5,” Soloye said. “I’m DoorDashing to get food for my son and gas money.”
A KXAN News viewer helping another family apply for the benefits sent an email saying, “Today they were told by the clerk ‘we are 65 days behind you’ll just have to wait.'”
Increase in applications and staff shortages
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission oversees SNAP benefits.
Tiffany Young, assistant press officer with the agency, said as of June 26, there were an estimated 258,000 applications pending processing.
“HHSC is taking action to process cases as quickly as possible to ensure timely access to important benefits,” Young said.
She added right now, 74% of applications are determined within 30 days from receiving it, which is within the federal time standard.
Young explained an increase in applications and staffing shortages have been challenging.
“The workforce and workload challenges throughout the pandemic have increased in the last few months when certain federal flexibilities ended, leading to an increase in processing times,” Young said.
She explained the federal flexibilities which ended included SNAP certification extensions.
HHSC is hiring
If qualified, a family of two can get about $459 a month in food benefit. For a family of five, it’s $992.
HHSC has held job fairs to help with recruitment.
Just this month the agency received federal approval to reinstate certain federal flexibilities including waiving the SNAP interview requirement and extending current SNAP re-certifications.
HHSC said families waiting on their application to be processed can contact 2-1-1, which is the Texas Information and Referral Network (2-1-1 TIRN), Option 1, to receive a referral to available resources.
Families can also access the agency’s community partner, Feeding Texas, to locate local food bank information.