Butler County improves timeliness of issuing food stamps

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Butler County improves timeliness of issuing food stamps

Improvements have been made since a state evaluation one year ago that cited timeliness issues by Butler County in issuing food stamps and other measures.

Last month, BCJFS improved to 97 percent for regular food stamps and 90 percent for expedited applications.

The state considers 95 percent an optimal mark on the 30-day application process. The expedited food stamp requests, where there is zero income in the household, are supposed to be handled within 72 hours.

Staffing levels and inexperienced employees were part of the tardiness issues last year. In November 2011, JFS lost 50 workers — 44 were laid off and six resigned in the face of the layoffs — to make up a $3 million shortfall in the agency caused by state and federal cuts.

There were 137 public assistance staffers who handled a total of 17,309 food stamp cases in 2009. Last year 84 workers handled 541,963.

There are 90 public assistance employees on staff now — not including administrative level jobs — and eight new hires are starting in May, according to Finance Director Barb Fabelo.

There are also three jobs postings and two vacancies, she said.

Other factors have also improved timeliness rates, according to Assistant JFS Director Jerome Kearns.

The department served almost 7,000 fewer people in March than they did in January of 2015, because more people have found employment, he said.

The agency was also cited for delays in the income and employment verification system (IEVS). The percent of IEVS completions was at a year-long low of 36 percent last March. While the state’s latest evaluation isn’t in yet, Kearns has been keeping track of those numbers too. They processed 92 percent of IEVS alerts they received in the month of March, he said.

Executive Director Ray Pater said he is pleased with the progress.

“I am very proud of the excellent work that Jerome Kearns and the Butler County Jobs and Family Services employees have been doing,” he said. “By using increased business analytics and examining existing work flows, great progress has been made in making operations more efficient and effective.”

County Administrator Charlie Young said the commissioners not only approved hiring more JFS staff, but they also have supported sending 22 — including several at JFS — managers to a “boot camp” training to improve processes.

“We sent a core group of people to this LeanOhio Boot Camp which is basically working on improving processes, streamlining processes and being able to serve people better, more efficiently,” Young said. “So between all of these changes that the staff have implemented, of course it takes a while to change things and get the training but we’re seeing the results of it now.”

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