Frustrations mount as long wait times, hang-ups plague DSNAP registration

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 8:47 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2021 at 10:15 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -After spending hours on the phone, Linda Daggs needed to take a break from trying to apply for disaster food stamps.

“In total, maybe, I’d say 3 and a half hours at the most,” said Daggs. “I was really frustrated and I was about to just say forget it.”

Her last name fell on the first day the Department of Children and Family Services started taking these calls in a staggered approach to register phase one parishes, but Daggs says she has yet to speak to a real person.

“People have gone through enough with the hurricane and had to throw all of their food and stuff away. Now they have to go through all of this just to get food. It’s ridiculous it really is,” said Daggs.

Receiving up to 350 calls per second, Department Assistant Secretary, Shavana Howard says at first they thought it was a mistake, but found the demand was simply that high.

“Yesterday we took 11,300 calls. The biggest challenge we’re having right now is people not calling in on the right day or the right phase in the right day for the last name,” said Howard.

Howard says callers trying to jump the line are slowing down the system but estimates this is one of the largest DSNAP operations they’ve handled in the state’s history, even compared to Hurricane Laura.

“We’re going to be serving up to a potentially 180,000, so almost twice as many, over three phases and heavily populated parishes. So it’s very different from what we’ve had before which is why the alphabet system is put in place,” said Howard.

She says they’re also denying a number of people for assistance who have also endured long wait times, but there are success stories.

“They’re going to be able to help me out. Honestly, I didn’t think they would,” said Kim Abramson.

Even during work, Kim Abramson says she’s thankful she had the ability and patience to stay on hold.

“I apologized to every customer I was on hold with that elevator music,” said Abramson.

After a couple of days of spending hours on the phone, she says she’s just excited for a special outing with her husband.

“I love grocery shopping more than anything he can tell you I’m like obsessed with it,” said Abramson.

Howard says they consider a household’s net income and disaster-related expenses, but because there isn’t an income standard with DSNAP, it’s difficult to estimate which households will qualify without going through the application process.

For those who can’t get through on their designated day, they can call Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 pm.

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