State officials considering AI to help with SNAP benefits backlog

Georgia wants to use AI and bots to help get families the resources they need to put food on the table.

For nearly a year, the state of Georgia has been dealing with a backlog of SNAP benefits renewals.

The state recognizes that there is a problem, but families said the wait for change is life-threatening.

Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Justin Gray talked to federal officials, who said they are working with the state on swift action to fix the issues. They are trying everything from hiring more staff to using artificial intelligence to help.

“No help at all,” SNAP recipient Desmond Easly said. “It’s been three months, and they telling me to go to pantries.”

Easly said the food at pantries should be saved for people more in need. But it’s been three months that his family has been going without the $600 in SNAP benefits, or food stamps, that his family relies on.

“I have a child’s mouth I have to feed,” Easley said. “I have to make sure she’s on the full stomach, she’s in school, she’s clothed, she’s clean.”

State officials said the backlog is tied to a manpower shortage. They said that to combat that, this year the Department of Health Services is offering caseworkers overtime. Health and Human Services has hired 900 new workers since January and brought back retired caseworkers.

The federal agency that oversees SNAP tells Channel 2 Action News in a statement:

“When there is a delay in processing applications, the families who rely on SNAP’s essential support experience real and serious impacts. FNS is working closely and consistently with Georgia’s Department of Family and Children Services and requiring them to take swift action to improve the root causes of poor timeliness.”

Families like Easly’s just need to money they rely on for food.

“It’s critical for not just me, but for any family that’s going through,” Easly said. “What we going through is very critical.”

Georgia officials said they have requested a waiver from certain government regulations to speed up the process of applications. They are currently waiting to see if a request to use AI will be approved.

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