Social Services demand increasing

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In other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 2-0, a bid to purchase two 2009 Ford F-250 trucks from Craig Ford for $43,336 for the road and bridge department. It was the low bid submitted.

Also approved, 2-0, a bid to purchase a 2009 Ford F-150 SuperCrew truck from Craig Ford for $27,365 for the Moffat County Sheriff's Office.

• Approved, 2-0, a $5,000 bid from Alec Brown to purchase a 1986 16-foot-by-80-foot Magnolia mobile home for the road and bridge department. It was the only bid submitted.

• Approved, 2-0, signing a memorandum of understanding between the Colorado Department of Labor and the Moffat County School District for the county to provide any building code inspections at the School District's request.

• Discussed several issues with Routt County resident Jay Fetcher, who works with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's state office. See Thursday's Daily Press for the full story.

- Note: Commissioner Tom Gray was absent.

— Marie Peer, Moffat County Social Services director, said it has become fairly common to see her staff running from one place to another.

"I've watched people running, really running," she told the Moffat County Commission at its regular Tuesday meeting. "So, I asked if caseloads are going up, and since October 2008, yes, they are."

Since October 2008 - when the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more value than any other month in 2008 and Congress passed a bailout for investment firms - service increases have occurred most notably in food stamps, Peer said.

Human services professionals commonly consider food stamps to be an omen for significant increases in all services, she added.

"They always tell us when things change in the economy. When things aren't doing as well, food stamps are the first place we see it," Peer said. "That is the big indicator for more people needing services."

The number of food stamp cases - that is, the number of people and households registered for the program - increased from 356 on October 1, 2008, to 460 on March 1, 2009, which equals about a 29 percent increase, or 104 total cases.

Comparatively, the number of food stamp cases increased about 14 percent - or 43 total cases - the previous year, from October 1, 2007, to October 1, 2008.

Family medical services - which include Medicaid and CHP+ - made up the next highest service increase, totaling 57 more cases from October 2008 to March 2009, or an increase from 376 to 433.

From October 1, 2007, to October, 1 2008, the number of family medical cases decreased by five.

Adult medical and adult financial services, such as Medicaid, old age pension and certain disability payments, were steady the past six months.

Cases for Colorado Works - the state's welfare program - increased from 13 in October 2008 to 23 in March 2009.

There was a spike to 48 cases in February 2009, but Peer said Colorado Works statistics often jump around.

The program encourages people to find work and stop receiving assistance, which can cause the numbers to jump around as people find jobs.

If services continue to increase, it would be possible for some to reach "critical mass," when the available funding wouldn't be able to satisfy the number of requests.

Food stamps will not face that dilemma, she said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will fully fund all requests, even if they surpass the budgeted allocation for Moffat County.

Colorado Works, however, is funded with a block grant, which Peer said means her agency gets a set amount of money each year, no more and no less.

She doesn't expect the program's funding to run short, however. It's run off the state's fiscal year, which lasts from July to June. Through January, which was seven months into this fiscal year, her department only had spent 32 percent of its annual allocation.

The other programs, though, would be subject to budget constraints, Peer said.

"It would all depend on the program, each one will be different, and it really depends on what the state sees as each individual county's needs," she said, adding she has not heard any talk about the state cutting human services expenses to balance its deficit.

"There will be cuts, but they're coming in places like administration," Peer said. "In the programs, we're working in every possible way to not bring those down."

Commissioner Tom Mathers said the county would do whatever it can to give additional funding to any Social Services program that faces cuts locally.

"We would step forward and fund those programs if needed," he said. "It's almost that we have to. When times get tough, that's when Social Services gets busy."

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