Thousands of Illinois residents lose food stamp benefits
Thousands of Illinois residents have lost their federal food stamps.
However, representatives from the Illinois Department of Human Services as well as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union disagree on what is causing the issue.
"For many of them, they have been without food assistance for two months," Public Affairs Director for AFSCME Local 31 Anders Lindall said.
Now, it's a situation 41,000 Illinois households find themselves caught in the midst of right before the holiday season.
With the old system, the state would cancel anywhere from 14,000-15,000 cases per month. The latest 41,000 cases were canceled on November 15.
But the Illinois Department of Human Services said the change is a result of the system now being more automated. The department is now working quickly to make sure those who are eligible for the benefits will get them.
"We are addressing them as quickly as we possibly can. We do not want to inconvenience our customers at all," Regional Administrator for the Illinois Department of Human Services Angela Campbell said.
Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Human Services started the second phase of a new computer system.
"The integrated eligibility system has several program integrity features to help ensure benefits are given to clients who are eligible," Campbell said.
Now, those who qualify for food assistance can sign up and renew online. However, as the system changed from an older version, so did the number of people who qualified.
"More than 100,000 Illinois residents who are the neediest folks. They're struggling, they're trying to put food on the table and that's what their SNAP benefit, used to be called food stamps, SNAP benefits are for," Lindall said.
But as those families affected are looking for answers, time may not be on their side.
"It made me very angry," benefits user Jennifer Anderson said after she heard about the situation. Anderson also mentioned she had her medical card was taken with no warning.
Now benefiting families look to how they are going to be able to pay for their food, which is now an additional cost, they were not expecting.
"Everyone, every kid in a struggling family deserves to eat," Lindall said.