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Missouri governor ‘aware’ of immense wait times for food stamp call centers

By Lauren Trager

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    ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says he is working on a fix to the state’s food stamp call centers after a News 4 investigation last week revealed people were going hungry because they could never get through.

Parson told News 4 he’s aware of the problem and he’s telling people just to hang in there, but so many are saying they are hungry and desperate for help now.

“I need my benefits,” said Darrian Johnson. He, like many News 4 Investigates has heard from lately, has been kicked off their food stamps and unable to reach anyone at the state about it.

“I have a log on my phone of the past January and February and they say they are going to call you this day, they don’t ever call” he said.

People have been reporting immensely long call wait times to the state’s call centers for the Missouri food stamp program known as SNAP.

“We need to up our game and do a better job,” said Parson.

Parson said the state is looking into the matter.

“I think we are working on that right now,” he said. “We are aware of that, and we are trying to make sure we improve that system and we are working on that every day.”

But those Missourians are going hungry right now. “What’s your advice to people who are trying to get those SNAP benefits and just cannot get through?” News 4′s Lauren Trager asked the governor.

“I think you should reach out to the state, and we are working hard to make sure someone does respond to them, whatever that process is, but don’t give up and keep trying,” Parson said.

News 4 visited several local offices, and most have been virtual ghost towns. Johnson was told he’d have to wait an hour-and-a-half on Chouteau, only to be told he would have to sit down at a phone, not in front of a live person.

“When I need you, you are not there so what are our taxpayer dollars doing keeping this place open for, if you are not here to help people, so I am so sorry,” he said.

The Department of Social Services told previously said its call centers are understaffed. But, News 4 is still digging for answers about how exactly the state got into this mess and how it plans on fixing it.

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