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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cuts hurt, but won't cripple local Human Services effort

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Changes continue to be implemented by the local DHS office as state agencies deal with across the board budget cuts by the governor.

The new manager for the Iowa Department of Human Services Sioux City Service Area, which includes Buena Vista County, met with the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors this week to discuss the new service area and some of the employee shifts along with it.

"I don't think we changed staff much," said Pat Braesch, director of the Service Area. "The majority of layoffs were managers and support staff."

The former regional manager for Buena Vista County took early retirement as well as other administrators throughout the state. Braesch said no field workers were removed because of the DHS restructuring.

The DHS used to be divided into five regions with 37 service areas, with five regional and 37 service area administrators. There were 385 administrators for the DHS. There were full-time offices in 96 of Iowa's 99 counties.

Under the new structure, the five regional offices were eliminated and the number of service areas were reduced from 37 to eight. The number of full-time offices was reduced to about 59.

Now 14 counties, including Buena Vista, are part of a service area based out of Sioux City. Instead of 37 managers overseeing three or four counties, there are now eight regional managers.

However, there are still field supervisors who oversee two or three county offices and the field workers in them, which includes income maintenance specialists and social workers, Braesch said.

The DHS first faced a 4.3 percent cut last year and then another 1 percent reduction. The one percent cut may require another temporary full-time layoff for the rest of this fiscal year, Braesch said.

Also, the Sioux City area is working on how a furlough program will work to save additional dollars.

Braesch said the changes will not affect services to local clients. While some offices have been turned into "less than full-time," the DHS is still maintaining offices in every county.

"People will be able to drive and go where they always have," she said.

The part-time offices will only be open one or two days a week, and workers will see clients by appointment only.

That's not much different than how the DHS operates now, Braesch said.

"There are very few places you do an interview on the same day," she said.

Most of the assistance DHS provides takes 30 days to activate, she noted. The only emergency form of assistance are food stamps, and that usually takes seven days, she added.

DHS has established a toll-free number for each county office for clients to set up appointments. Letters are also being sent to current clients to inform them of the changes.

There are four part-time offices in the Sioux City Service Area. The Ida County office is less than full time, with its employees based out of the Cherokee County office.

The Buena Vista County office maintains 12 employees, including area supervisors.

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