Illinois risks losing $18 million over food stamp processing

A social worker with the Cooperative Feeding Program displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food on February 10, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Illinois could lose more than $18 million in funding if it doesn't speed up processing times on food stamp applications within the next month.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the USDA, which administers the food stamp program, sent the Illinois Department of Human Services a letter saying that the agency has until April 21 to significantly improve timeliness or develop an effective strategy to make it happen. The agency has promised to fix the problems, which officials say occurred under a previous administration.

USDA records show that Illinois is among the 10 states with the worst timeliness rates.

There are roughly 1.8 million Illinois residents using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for groceries. Many of them are children, the elderly or people with disabilities.