Summit County sees spike in social services demand
summit daily news
BRECKENRIDGE – Demand for social services in Summit County is higher than ever, and county staff are asking for help as federal stimulus finances expire at the end of June.
Local child care spending and Medicaid cases have about doubled in the past five years. Issuance of food stamps has increased six-fold since 2005, according to county records.
Stimulus funding that has helped support social services is to be eliminated after the state fiscal year ends June 30, said Tom Griffiths with the county’s department of social services.
“That might change, but as of right now” a significant portion of stimulus funding won’t be renewed for the next fiscal year, he said.
The finances have helped to fund a part-time position of 23 hours-per-week, and staff from the social services department asked county commissioners on Tuesday whether that position could be added to the budget.
At a time when local governments, including the county, have cut back on spending, the position would cost $14,000 per year for the position, which would be for 51 weeks per year. With benefits, it would cost $23,421.
Commissioner Thomas Davidson said he, too, thought it sounded like a good idea, adding that “I’m very unsure help will come through in federal or state dollars.”
He said a decrease will need to be found in the general fund to cover the increase for social services.
County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said benefits should probably be included for the position.
“I do feel uncomfortable hiring someone with no benefits when you’re working to cover people with no benefits,” she said.
The commissioners are to make an official decision in the next couple weeks.
Griffiths said the added part-time position should be enough to support social services “unless there’s another huge spike in case loads.”
Food stamp spike
Summit County has had one of the state’s greatest increases in food stamp issuance between January and November 2009. In that time, the amount of food stamps increased locally by more than 120 percent – more than double the statewide average.
Eagle and Routt counties were the only ones in the state with a higher increase in food stamp issuance, and both were near Summit’s rate of increase. Impacts of unemployment due to less seasonal and construction jobs were discussed Tuesday among factors increasing demand for food stamps.
Summit’s food stamp program’s caseload – now at about 600 cases – increased 442 percent between 2005 and 2010. Spending for food stamps increased 403 percent, to about $125,000 per month, according to documents from the county’s department of social services.
Child care cases have increased from 40 in 2006 to about 125 in 2010.
Part of this demand, Griffith said on Tuesday, is likely from an increase in the federal poverty level served as well as the state’s expansion of the Child Care Job Search program from 30 days to 180 days.
Medicaid case load has increased from about 480 cases in 2005 to about 860 cases in 2010.
The county has also stepped up efforts to prevent welfare fraud. Posters have been placed in county buildings to encourage people to report suspected fraud.
“We dedicate a phone line to report welfare fraud,” Joanne Sprouse with social services said. “People are feeling strongly about getting the word out.”
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or email@example.com.
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