With applications for food stamps up 20 percent, some New Jersey counties are struggling to process a backlog of requests.
The agencies having the hardest time keeping up have the most people asking for NJ SNAP—that’s the new name for the Garden State’s food stamp program. Diane Riley, of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, helps people fill out their forms. She says more applications combine with tight staffing levels to create the backlog. Essex County in North Jersey has a relatively big backlog, Riley said, because it is stretched more than counties with much less participation, like Morris.
“I think each state is really struggling with the number of people it can hire, if at all—even replacement,” Riley said. “I think that we’re really stuck with processing as many as they can.”
Riley says you can imagine how someone out sick could derail an overstretched office. A queue of unprocessed patients quickly adds up.
She says New Jersey has streamlined the application process. Applicants can now mail forms or submit them online. Counties also have started conducting more interviews by phone to speed things along.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Essex and Morris counties have the biggest foodstamp backlogs. Diane Riley says Morris has much less participation in the program than Essex and does not have as much of a backlog. We regret the error.