A record number of Maryland residents are applying for food stamps, and state lawmakers want to know if enough is being done to meet the demand.
In April alone, nearly 70,000 Maryland residents applied for food stamps, well more than double the number of applications in a typical month, The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday.
The state Department of Human Services, which oversees the program, revamped its workflow and bought more than 2,700 laptops so employees can process applications at home. But nearly 300 state workers are at home with no computers and unable to process applications, according to the newspaper.
Department officials said the laptops would be issued by the end of the week. But state lawmakers are frustrated by what they say is a slow response to thousands of residents who are in desperate need of help to keep their families fed.
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“This is a major, major problem,” said Del. Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat. “They are way behind.”
Branch is among House of Delegates leaders who have pressed the department on their response to the surge in applications. He’s particularly frustrated that several weeks into the pandemic, state employees are being paid but are still unable to review applications from home.
“The cumulative actions taken by our agency since March have provided timely reassurance to our most vulnerable citizens that their needs will continue to be met,” state Human Resources Secretary Lourdes R. Padilla said in a statement.
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After a private conference call with the department more than a week ago, the delegates are following up with a public hearing before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which was scheduled for Thursday.