Welfare To Work Numbers Up

MAYVILLE – Ever since the Department of Health and Human Services came under fire for low participation rates in the county’s Welfare to Work program, participation numbers have been improving.

Christine Schuyler, director of Health and Human Services, and Marge Johnson, director of certification for temporary assistance, both attended Wednesday night’s Human Services Committee meeting to provide an update to legislators.

Schuyler requested that the department no longer have to collect information about where food stamp applications come from, in and out of state, for report to the legislature.

The committee began requesting regular Welfare to Work updates in January with information about where applications come from in order to show support for stricter welfare regulations from the state.

“We’ve been looking at where these applications are coming from for six months,” she said, adding that 3 percent of applicants list another state when providing prior address information, and 1 percent of applications come from an adjacent county. “It may not seem like it’s a burden on our staff, but it is. I’m really not sure what we are supposed to do with this report.”

Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg, requested Schuyler compile a list of averages from the last six months and Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown, agreed with Lemon that it would no longer be necessary to receive such data.

Johnson said Welfare to Work participation numbers are now just 2.4 percent below the state average.

In January, Schuyler said the department had been working on engaging participants for better rates.

On Wednesday, she explained how her staff is looking into strategies in order to improve the numbers.

If an employee is required to work 20 hours within the program and only works 18, they fall into a category termed “engagement.”

“If social services can ask the employer to give the participant two more hours, it will improve our participation rates and bump those employees out of engagement,” Schuyler said.

Johnson also said temporary assistance cases are down by 300 cases, while SNAP benefit cases remain in the 11,000s countywide.

“We don’t anticipate that number will decline,” she said.

Schuyler and Johnson both continue to stress to the legislature how they are severely understaffed.

“The consequence of being understaffed is that people could be receiving benefits who shouldn’t be receiving benefits,” Schuyler said.

“We keep trying,” Johnson said. “There are things that fall through the cracks because there are so many applications to process.”

All resolutions will be discussed at next week’s meeting of the full legislature on Wednesday at 6:30 in the legislative chambers of the Gerace Office Building in Mayville.