County government doesn’t always follow the biblical dictum of “Ask and ye shall receive,” however, in some cases, if department directors ask loud enough for long enough, they get what they’re asking for.
And it looks now like Guilford County Social Services Director Heather Skeens is going to get her wish, a slew of new employees for the county’s social services department.
That department, which is a division of the Guilford County Health and Human Services Department, has been facing a big backlog of Medicaid applications, and Skeens has been asking for a while for nearly two-dozen new positions. The item is on the agenda for the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Thursday, April 16 meeting and that usually means the votes are there to approve it.
According to information provided to the county commissioners at the board’s retreat earlier this year, annual increases in Medicaid cases in Guilford County have been taxing the abilities of current social services staff in a major way and were higher than surrounding counties and comparable counties.
According to a memo to the commissioners concerning the request, the current pandemic has made the need more clear and immediate. It states that the number of applications has increased due to parents and caregivers being out of work and losing income due to COVID-19.
“We are expecting these numbers to continue to increase as the pandemic progresses,” it reads. “Approved cases will be required to be renewed within 6 to 12 months, creating an influx of recertifications due this time next year in 2021.”
Recently, the county’s backlog of cases has grown because of the closure of schools and daycares, which has prevented some social service employees who are parents from being able to come to work. Also, state guidelines have kept social services staff from accessing state systems on their home computers, which means that all of the county’s eligibility caseworkers must work from Guilford County buildings.
The 23 positions include 20 eligibility caseworkers, one lead eligibility caseworker and two eligibility supervisors. Federal and state supplements are covering much of the cost. The gross cost from April through the end of June this year is estimated to be approximately $348,000 – with a county match of approximately $119,900. The gross annual cost in fiscal 2020-2021 is estimated to be $1,247,000 with Guilford County covering $365,000 of that cost.