The issue was brought up during Monday’s DSS board meeting by Social Services accounting specialist Tracy Hodges, who told members there was a budget amendment included in this month’s agenda that called for using $546.44 from a stimulus grant to help cover some overtime salary expenses that had been incurred.
As Hodges explained the need for the amendment, board member Jim Brinkley questioned what could be done to help alleviate some of the burden on the employees who are having to work beyond 40 hours per week.
Bradshaw stated that she is almost at the point of going to the county commissioners and seeking additinal help. However, she noted that if she were to do so, it would be within the current budget and would not require additional tax dollars.
The Social Services director then acknowledged that the goal is to keep the case load amounts manageable, since the department is getting “record numbers of applications.”
According to her data, Bradshaw stated that in December, 424 applications were received into the Foods and Nutrition section of DSS. In 2008, there were 397 applications in that same month, and in 2007, there were only 249 applcations submitted in December.
Brinkley then reiterated, “I am trying to see what we, as a board, can do to lighten their load.”
The DSS director pointed out other options the agency is taking advantage of such as hiring temporary clerical support staff. She stated the difficulty they are facing with hiring temporary staff is keeping them.
“These positions are time-limited and, often, those filing them move into permanent positions as they become available,” said DSS directo Sarah Bradshaw. Additionally, she stated “the existing staff and supervisors are so overwhelmed with work that they have difficulty devoting a great deal of time to training new staff.”
Bradshaw then established that the department did benefit from an extension of the Joblink’s summer support program, since one person was actually allowed to stay and help out until Dec. 15.
In addition, she said that one resource available is through a staffing agency which places retired social service workers who could help train new employees.
“This may be something we want to look into,” said Bradshaw.
Board member Jefferson Strickland then acknowledged his belief that, as a county commissioner, he has seen that certain county departments carry the burden of the economy more than others.
“Recession has not affected every department the same way,” said Strickland. However, he did not specifically say that Social Services was the one he was referring to.
Erma Thornton, an income maintenance administrator, pointed out that with the increased workload, the board should be concerned that there may be mistakes in the files.
“We are holding our breath because there have to be mistakes,” said Thornton.
In the past, Thornton addressed, the state has been well known for accuracy in its files. As a matter of fact, it was rated fifth in the nation in this area.
“It looks like North Carolina will not retain this,” she stressed. “If (Sampson County), alone, brought the state accuracy (rate) down, it would not surprise me.”
She also pointed out that it is not just an issue of staff overload, the clients as well are not being served in as timely a manner with such a large workload.
“I have clients call me crying, and we can’t pick and choose who can apply for this,” said Thornton.
After further discussion, Bradshaw stated that by next month she would know more about what needs to be done to help alleviate the problem.
Katie Holland can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 136, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.