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One quarter of Columbia residents use DSS

Jan 26, 2011 6:27 am
The Register-Star has a stunning story this morning, January 26 -- it turns out that 24 percent of people in Columbia County receive some sort of service from the county Department of Social Services. And that doesn’t count the nearly 1,000 people with pending applications. And it turns out that the news isn't all that new. In October 2009, DSS released caseload stats reflected the same thing: 24 percent of the population relied on the agency in some way, whether for food stamps, medicare, child support, etc.

“This morning, our lobby, again, was wall-to-wall folks applying for assistance,” DSS Commissioner Paul Mossman told the Board of Supervisors’ Human Service committee Monday. “It’s been like that for 12 months. You can see almost all the programs have gone up in numbers.” The number of adults using DSS services rose about one percent from 2009 to 2010 — 11.382 in 2009 and 12,045 in 2010. The number of people on food stamps/safety net rose 32 percent, from 492 people in 2009 and 651 in 2010.

Pending applications over 2010 were in the high hundreds all year. They reached their lowest point in September, with 730 pending applications. In December there were 995 pending, the highest all year.

Mossman said he thinks the numbers will continue to rise, since many unemployed county workers are due to run out of unemployment benefits soon and the job market hasn’t made any dramatic changes in the last year.

The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance gives DSS a heads-up by sending them the numbers of local people whose unemployment benefits are due to run out. Between October and December 2010, 88 people were due to lose those benefits.

“These are people who have exhausted their extensions,” Mossman said. “Potentially, if they can’t find any source of income, the likelihood of them coming in and asking for some sort of assistance is going to be good.”

Also during the committee meeting, Mossman reported the most recent number of homeless individuals DSS provides housing for; as of December 2010, 83 people — 61 adults and 22 kids — are being housed in an average of 55 area motel rooms. This is a slight decrease from November 2010, when 89 people were housed in motels by DSS.

DSS Director of Income Maintenance Lynn Kutski said Columbia Opportunities has been able to permanently house a couple of previously homeless families.

Mossman said DSS is still looking to lease apartments in the county as a first step away from using motels exclusively. He said no specific apartments were earmarked at this time and the agency would plan to house single females first.