delgazette.com

Bountiful attendance at Stratford Harvest Fair

September 30, 2012

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Delaware County commissioners this week approved the first step in a plan that would consolidate how Delaware County and six other Ohio counties provide social services.

The plan creates a consortium of counties including Delaware, Hancock, Knox, Marion, Morrow, Sandusky and Wood counties. Once the plan is finalized in the coming months (officials hope by November), the counties will set up a telephone hot-line for people who want to apply for food stamps or any other government financial assistance provided by those counties’ departments of Jobs and Family Services.

When someone calls that number, an operator in any of the seven counties, including Delaware County, could end up picking up on the other end. That operator would then process that person’s application. The plan also calls for the seven counties to digitally share all paperwork for people receiving social services.

While they will continue to accept walk-in applications, the hot-line will largely consolidate the application and administration of social services within the participating counties, said Delaware County JFS Director Mona Reilly. Since the seven counties will share paperwork, recipients of financial assistance will no longer necessarily receive them from the county in which they live. That distinction is mostly technical anyway, Reilly said, since the money for social services comes from the state and federal government. The individual counties are just a pass-through.

Officials with the participating counties, bracing for expected cuts in state funding, hope the plan will increase efficiency through the use of technology.

“We’re taking a look at the expected cuts. They are certainly going to have an impact, and we need to look at how to do what we do differently,” Reilly said.

The plan is the first of its kind in the state, she said. If it is successful, the state will look at adopting it on a wider basis.

The system won’t require any of the counties to hire any additional personnel, Reilly said.