MISSOURI (KMOV.com) – News 4 Investigates is getting answers about why so many Missourians say they are hungry.
Many people have contacted News 4 in recent days claiming that their food stamp benefits are being reduced or removed and the stories are really hard to hear.
“I lasted for three to four hours,” said Mary Holmes, who lost her benefits.
Missourians say they can’t reach anyone through the state’s call center about the food stamp program known as SNAP.
“It’s impossible, it’s literally impossible to talk to anyone,” Joseph Thorne said.
Perpetually on hold, even News 4’s inquiries couldn’t pass.
The spike in food prices and the pandemic have been bad enough, but now people who depend on food stamps tell News 4 they face a new nightmare: the state of Missouri.
“How is it possible, how is it possible? It’s not customer service,” State Senator Jill Schupp said. “It’s heinous and shocking.”
She said the government was clearly failing to help those in need.
“I hold our administration accountable. We have to upgrade these departments, people are hungry,” Schupp said.
She said she learned that nearly 75% of all calls to SNAP call centers over the past few months never go through.
She said the centers are clearly understaffed.
“When you don’t pay people well in the state, they go somewhere else,” she said.
The Missouri Department of Human Services did not accept interviews, but confirmed that it had recently experienced a 20% turnover in call takers, saying that despite recruiting efforts, the number of applicants that he received per job offer decreased by 72% between March 2020 and October 2021.
They hope a recent pay rise will help them and note that people can go in person to their local DSS office. News 4 visited two DSS offices in the St. Louis area on Friday and both had zero wait times.
“None of them are past 5 p.m. so if you’re a worker you can’t go, none of them are open on weekends,” Schupp said.
To resolve call center issues, she said people should contact their local representatives or the man whose face is on the doors of state offices.
“Call the governor’s office, let them know this is a real problem,” she said.
This is exactly what Joseph Thorne did.
“I told them I got my hands on News 4 and was actually on the news last night. And that really seemed to get their attention,” he said.
He was told there had been a mistake and it was corrected.
“It’s a relief, it’s definitely a relief, I’m going to be able to do it now,” he said.
But with so many people going hungry, he said state apologies were simply not enough.
“They’re understaffed, I understand that, but there’s still a lot to do,” Thorne said.
You can contact your senator or local representative here.
Senator Schupp’s office said it could also help. His office phone number is 573-751-9762.
The number for Governor Mike Parson’s office is 573-751-3222.
You can find your local DSS office here. Be sure to check the hours before you arrive.
If you want to help those in need, here is a list of organizations that focus on hunger and other needs.
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