Last month 845 District of Columbia households received food stamp purchase cards nearly a month late because of computer and administrative blunders in the Payments Assistance Administration of the Department of Human Resources.
The delay involved a computer that failed to spit out the cards of 1.180 food stamp clients whose eligibility was up for review at the end of October. The error was discovered after PAA had processed cards for 47,000 food stamp households, said Malone B. Broome, acting deputy administrator of PAA.
Rather than Reprocess the entire 47,000 cards, Broome said an administrative decision was made to have PAA workers go through all the cards in the office and pull out the 1,180 up for review. They pulled the cards, voided them and began all over again, said Broome.
During the process they found 652 of the review cases were to remain active and 528 were ineligible. On Nov. 8 they reprocessed the 652 cards and mailed them out. However, on Nov. 9, staff members discovered they had also pulled and voided 193 eligible cards that were not up for review.
Included in that 193 was the food stamp card belonging to Ernestine Lyles, a mother of four, including one handicapped child on a limited diet. She waited a few weeks and then reported the missing card to her food stamp certification office on 14th Street and Park Road NW, said Lyles.
After another week wait, she said she was forced to buy food with the $106 she had saved to purchase food stamps worth $206.
"When I buy the stamps, I don't run out of food," said Lyles. Without the stamps, she ran out of food a few days before Thanksgiving, she said.
"An organization was kind enough to give me food for Thanksgiving," she said.
Her food stamp card arrived Nov. 29, Lyles said. By then she didn't have the money to purchase the coupons, nor could she afford to borrow it, she said.
As long as the card was received in November, Broome said food stamp regulations did not permit DHR to give clients free coupons or food if, as in Lyle's case, they were unable to use the cards. However, certified food stamp clients who did not receive their purchase cards in November are eligible for free coupons, he said.
After the 193 cards were discovered, Broome said, they were reprocessed and mailed Nov. 13. Prior to this time, the food stamp office at 122 C St. NW received numerous calls about late food stamp cards, said Broome. No new calls have been received, and Broome said he feels nearly all food stamp clients have received their cards.
Because of the PAA administrative blunder, "they may not have eaten correctly," Broome admitted. But "There's nothing I can say."
Clients who were certified to receive cards in November and did not should call 727-0858. These clients will receive free food stamp coupons later.