Backlog prevents EBT recipients from receiving money for food

Backlog prevents EBT recipients from receiving money for food

In Tim Moline's hands is a list.

"The date and time of my calls, the reason I called and the result of my call," said Moline.

A detailed log depicting six weeks of frustration.

"Phone calls not returned.  Nobody answering.  No communications whatsoever.  And this kept going on everyday," said Moline.

Moline's been calling on behalf of his long time friend who isn't able to do it himself.  At first it was to get an update on whether or not the Pohulani Processing Center had received paperwork needed to extend the EBT benefits the friend had been receiving for more than a decade.

"On the 5th of the month he is supposed to have his EBT deposit," said Moline.

But earlier this week those calls turned into trying to figure out why the money he depends on for food wasn't there.  When he couldn't get answers from the processing center or the Department of Health Services, he contacted Hawaii News Now.

"The reason I called was not just for me or my friend.  It was how many people like us are going through this same situation that don't speak up.  That give up," said Moline.

Hawaii News Now found out Moline's friend was far from being alone.  As of Monday 386 people were in a similar situation.

DHS officials declined to go on camera but sent us a statement blaming the backlog on the center receiving an unusually high number of eligibility review forms coupled with the fact the department that deals with them is down three staff members.

"I would love those hard working people at Pohulani to get additional support or get somebody in have the director go in and observe and see what's going on and clean it up," said Moline.

This week DHS has managed to get through more than half the backlog.  Right now about 150 reviews are still pending.  Officials say in an effort to prevent future backlogs the center has implemented new processing procedures that will start next month.

Individuals and families that need immediate food assistance should visit their local food bank.  In addition to the Hawaii Food Bank on Kilihau Street in Honolulu , there is a food bank next door to Pohulani facility on Queen Street.  It is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  Additional food resource information is available by calling 211.

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