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Recession increases demand for Social Services

Fri, Feb 6th, 2009
Posted in Government

The number of Food Support cases in Fillmore County have increased 32-percent over the past 13 months, with 20-percent occurring over the past four months.

PRESTON - Social Service Director Thomas Boyd gave some ballooning and troubling statistics of increased demand for services due to the depressed economy at the board's February 3 meeting. Food stamp cases went from 322 in January 2008, to 399 in December 2008, to 431 in January of 2009. That is an increase of 32 in one month. Medical Assistance cases went from 1254 in January of 2008 to 1316 in January of 2009.

Boyd noted Governor Pawlenty's budget proposal released on January 27 calls for a cut of Minnesota Care for 'adults only' which would affect currently 174 people in Fillmore County. Pawlenty wants to cut General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) for adults which would affect 44 in Fillmore County.

Pawlenty wants to change level of income to qualify for family Medical Assistance. He proposes to cut it from 200% of poverty level to 100% of poverty level. Over 80,000 adults and adults with children statewide would lose their eligibility for health coverage over the next two years. Many others would fail to become eligible.

The board approved a regional agreement including eight counties for a Regional Contract Manager for 2009. The eight counties fund the position to keep rates consistent throughout the region. Fillmore County's share is $5,800.

Boyd explained that Fillmore Place has closed as a 12 bed ICF/MR and is being converted to two 4 bed Supported Living Service (SLS) waiver sites. Boyd said that three of the twelve beds were not refilled and that these facilities cannot function financially when all beds are not filled. His department is working with Maple Leaf Services to make the transition.

Merit Plan

Ashley Stinson, Personnel, explained that at the January 13 board meeting a resolution was passed asking the state for more time to get into compliance with the state for pay equity. If the county is not in compliance by February 16, penalties can be assessed against the county. The county's 2008 data gives the county a score of 74.80% and an 80.00% score is needed to be in compliance.

Commissioner Randy Dahl made it clear that the county doesn't discriminate between men and women on pay. Dahl remarked, "One part of the governor's office is demanding that we freeze wages and another part is demanding that we raise them" to get into compliance. Hiring decisions are based on the person most qualified.

Stinson said if the committee's plan were approved then they could resubmit the data and the plan ahead of the deadline. Chairman Chuck Amunrud said that adopting the plan was not a perfect solution, but will have the least impact on the county.

Stinson listed changes recommended by the Personnel Committee which could get the county into compliance. The changes will not cost the county at this time, but likely would at a later date.

The changes in the merit scale were approved with a split vote. Commissioners Duane Bakke and Marc Prestby voted against.

Other Business In Brief

• County Engineer John Grindeland asked for and received approval to advertise for the Maintenance Supervisor position. Three applications have been received "in house." Because this is a supervisory position over about eighteen employees, Amunrud said that a larger pool of applicants would be desirable.

• Auditor/Treasurer Shirl Boelter asked for and received approval for a grant agreement with the Bluff Valley Riders to add 20 miles to their snow mobile trail. The money comes from the state through the DNR. Boelter noted that it is an excellent program that brings business to the county. Bakke abstained since he is a member of the club and the trail goes through his property.

• A contract with retired David Knutson was approved which will give him access to his old office and computer. He has volunteered without compensation to work for a couple of weeks to update the surveyor records. Commissioner Tom Kaase thanked him for his volunteer service.

• An amendment was approved to the policy for "Electronic Communications Systems Use." The amendment puts a procedure in place for an immediate "unplanned termination" of an employee to protect computer data.

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