Pennsylvania, already criticized for lagging in processing unemployment checks and home energy assistance claims, has been ordered by the federal government to speed up processing of food stamp applications, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The newspaper examined U.S. Department of Agriculture data and found that the commonwealth ranks among the worst in the nation for getting food stamps to the needy within 30 days, as required by federal law.
The department, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, ranks Pennsylvania 39th on a list of 53 that includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the paper said.
Critics accuse the state of scrimping on caseworkers and emphasizing fraud prevention even though food stamp fraud is rare.
Anne Bale, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Welfare, said the department is working on a plan to improve timeliness, as the federal government ordered in December.
Ms. Bale said one reason was the number of people receiving food stamps -- 1.8 million -- and another was that many people wait until the last minute to submit paperwork, which leads to delays.
The paper, however, said USDA figures indicate that although several states process more claims than Pennsylvania, they do so more quickly.