Social services commissioner: More people working

Temporary cash assistance, welfare caseloads down

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Department of Social Services may be making progress on getting more people working because its temporary cash assistance caseloads involving welfare were down again for 2016.

Welfare and Medicaid numbers have been on the decline for the last several years in Fulton County.

DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper made public a statistical county synopsis of various DSS caseloads comparing 2015 to 2016.

The total Fulton County DSS caseloads in which public assistance clients can receive benefits from federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, and state Safety Net Assistance, or SNA, was down by 11 cases from 2015 to 2016, or 4.5 percent.

“The cash assistance caseload was pretty much down, overall,” Cooper said Wednesday. “[More] people are working, I would assume.”

Temporary assistance — commonly known as “welfare” — is temporary cash assistance eligible persons to assist with shelter, utilities and daily living expenses.

DSS’s total number of temporary assistance cases declined from 243 in December 2015 to 232 in December 2016.

Numbers of temporary assistance cases in Fulton County have dropped dramatically since 2010 when the total was 360 cases.

“Our Employment Unit gets people out to work,” Cooper said.

According to information provided by the commissioner, the DSS Employment Unit works with temporary assistance recipients to assess their employability, address barriers, development an employment plan, and monitor compliance with an “ultimate goal of employment.”

Temporary assistance clients to employment rose from 167 cases in 2015 to 192 cases in 2016.

Medicaid’s caseload in the county dropped by 1,317 cases or 18 percent, from 7,324 cases in 2015 to 6,007 cases in 2016.

Fulton County saw a high of 8,734 Medicaid cases in 2013.

Medicaid represents medical insurance that covers essential medical services for persons receiving temporary assistance and other low-income persons.

In other statistical data provided by DSS, most of the caseloads were down. Fulton County’s foster caseload decreased by about 18 percent, from 45 cases in 2015 to 37 cases in 2016. The county had about 60 cases 10 years ago.

DSS caseworkers provide services to children in foster care, group and residential programs and to their birth parents and siblings at home.

Cooper said the child protective reports caseload was down from a high 1,679 cases in 2010, but DSS continues to be very busy addressing such cases.

“The staff wouldn’t feel that [decrease],” she said.

The number of child protective reports dipped slightly, from 1,427 cases in 2015 to 1,413 cases in 2016.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits, what used to be Food Stamps, totalled $12.9 million in Fulton County for 2016. The SNAP caseload declined by 97, from 4,674 cases in 2015 to 4,577 cases in 2016, or 2.1 percent.

HEAP, or Home Energy Assistance Program, provides energy assistance to low income and elderly households. The county saw a 9 percent decrease in HEAP cases, from 2,895 cases in 2015 to 2,633 cases in 2016.

Preventive services’ caseload was down by 20 percent, from 67 to 53.

The Preventive Services Program provides supportive and rehabilitative services to intact families where children have been assessed to be at-risk of foster care placement.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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