Proposed changes to EC Social Services

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is proposing sweeping changes for the Social Services Department, which right now is just trying to keep up with increasing demand.

Kathy Renshaw, who receives food stamps, said, “It’s tough out there trying to find a job. I’m on part time. I work at Prax Air. It doesn’t give me enough to cover it. That’s why I’m on food stamps.”

One in four people in Erie County are receiving some sort of public assistance, putting great pressure on a system lumped under one Social Services umbrella.

“It stinks. There’s not enough workers,” Renshaw said. “There’s more people coming down here for assistance and there’s not enough workers.”

Poloncarz is proposing a restructuring that creates three divisions. The first would handle just public assistance, including Mediciaid, food stamps, welfare, and HEAP. The move would hopefully improve service to everyone, including single mothers like Monique Martin, a school food worker still waiting to be assigned.

“I have no income right now. I’ll be working soon but I have to get some food and stuff in the house and Medicaid, make sure my kids is healthy,” Martin said.

Another division would be dedicated just to Child and Adult Protective Services. And most importantly, an additional team of case workers and managers would be added.

“To insure that what is a burgeoning and exploding case load is taken care of so our Child Protective Service workers are doing what they need to do, which is protect children and take them out of dangerous environments,” the County Executive said.

The case of 10-year-old Abdi Mohamud, who was beaten to death by his stepfather, fell through the cracks, and additional case workers may have made a difference.

The third division would be Administration, handling mostly personnel training and credentials.

“We need to have a Social Services Department that is focused to be proactive and not reactive to issues,” Poloncarz said.

Erie County lawmakers are being asked to approve the re-organization in the next couple of weeks.

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