Our View: Patience needed with new program
Recently, the Department of Social Services in Rutherford County indicated that the implementation of a new, web-based certification system has the potential to create delays in benefits being delivered to county residents.
So, at first glance, the NC FAST program that will initially be used to help certify eligibility for food stamp assistance appears to be anything but fast. Interview times are expected to triple and the initial payments from the program may be delayed by as much as a month.
However, in looking past the timelines and potential delays, we believe that the new program can provide a much-enhanced service to our county residents.
The NC FAST program is a new program developed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and is being implemented in all 100 county departments of social services aimed at improving how human services are delivered.
The program involves developing a computer database containing basic information on individual clients and their needs that can be used to determine eligibility for a variety of programs.
Essentially, it is a "one-stop" process for clients to access the assistance they need and are entitled to receive. Initially, the NC FAST program is being applied to the food stamp program but, over time, the program will be extended to other social services programs such as Medicaid, Work First, Child Services and Energy Assistance.
In the long run, clients will find getting assistance to be less burdensome and caseworkers will find they have more time to work with clients and coordinate benefits.
The NC FAST program is an important first step toward achieving a long-sought-after goal of human services officials to develop a single portal of entry for accessing and coordinating the full spectrum of assistance crossing the traditional program boundaries of social services, public health, mental health and workforce development.
We believe that is certainly a worthwhile goal.
We also encourage our citizens who are trying to get assistance from DSS to be patient. The process will soon become faster and more convenient.
In addition, we also encourage human services officials at the state level to continue to pursue the goal of a single portal of entry for all human services programs.
If that goal can be realized, individuals and families in need across the state will be better served and the outcomes for the massive amounts of money invested in human services programs will be vastly improved.
By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board
The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Joan Murray, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Publisher Jake Volcsko and Editor Matthew Clark