PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) - As the demand for food stamps surges across the state, some Arizonans are facing delays to receive benefits, 3 On Your Side has learned.
Brett Bezio, a spokesman for Arizona's Department of Economic Security, confirmed some people did not get their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits when they expected to. It's not clear how many people have been impacted.
“The payment delay is an intermittent problem," Bezio told 3 On Your Side in an email. "We are working through programming changes associated with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Most of the programming changes will be in place by next week, but in the meantime, we are manually extending SNAP certification periods."
According to DES data, the agency received 13,317 SNAP applications last week, which is thousands more than it typically handles. February's weekly average was 8,645 applications.
SNAP is one of numerous programs administered by DES. The agency's responsibilities also include unemployment insurance, child support, and medical assistance. At a news conference Tuesday, Tom Betlach, the agency's new director, said DES has been inundated with calls and acknowledged it can't keep up with the surge.
"We recognize it's still challenging for individuals to get through," Betlach said. "We have seen the demand just surge to at certain points, 70 calls per second coming into state lines."
Betlach said DES is hiring dozens of people and is also working on a private partnership to ramp up its call center capacity.
The federal government is warning people to watch out for a scam targeting people who receive food stamps.