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Social Service programs reviewed

Fri, Mar 7th, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - The history, operation and goals of the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) and the Diversionary Work Program (DWP) were detailed at the March 4 county board meeting. Gail Bunge, Financial Assistance Supervisor, explained that the MFIP program began statewide in 1998. This program is designed to help families with children. The program provides for child care help and employment services. It was modeled off the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Most families in the MFIP program also qualify for Medical Assistance. The goal of the program is to help families become self-sufficient. "Adult caregivers are expected to be engaged in paid employment, employment-related job seeking, or skill training for 30 plus hours per week."

Bunge added that the MFIP program has a 60 month time limit. Fillmore County typically has about 65 cases with participation either in the MFIP or the DWP. Social Service Director Thomas Boyd related that 70% of families are off the MFIP program within 3 years. The number of families participating in the program has decreased more than 30% since 1994. Boyd stressed that people want to work. He expects that with the economic down turn there will be an uptick in cases. The average participating family consists of three people, one adult and two children. Families may also receive food support which averages $88 per person per month.

The Diversionary Work Program is a four month program designed specifically to help families find employment immediately rather than to go to welfare. This program has been available since 2004. The program can provide for "basic housing costs, personal needs allowance, and child care assistance."

Wanda Jensen, Welfare Reform Programs Coordinator for Workforce Development, Inc., discussed the assessment interview when a parent comes in to apply for help. She acknowledged that people are apprehensive and have pride issues. Jensen determines education level, enrolls people in classes to get a GED if needed, provides work career counseling, career planning, practice in filling out applications and interviewing, and determines computer literacy.

Commissioner Duane Bakke asked about those people who are not trainable. Bunge said that those limitations would be part of the initial assessment. If someone is determined to be disabled and unable to work, then the possibility of Social Security would be considered. Jensen added that if a doctor says that an individual should only work 10 hours per week, then a limited part time position is sought. The goal is to train them and move them out of poverty. Jensen explained that over half of the cases are working poor who are in need of child care, food support and medical assistance. She made it clear that child care was very important as without that service, a parent could not take a $6 per hour job. The average grant per family in these two programs for cash and food equals $574.08.

Jensen noted that a lot of people were displaced and without work because of the August 2007 flooding. There is also youth programming for at-risk youth ages 14 through 21. She maintained, "Training is the key to moving to higher paying jobs."

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asked about the county's unemployment rate. Boyd stated that it is about 10% which is the highest in the area. Bakke added that people are trying to get employment or they wouldn't be part of the unemployment statistic.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen

The board approved a grant agreement for $3,000 for the purchase of Automatic Electric Defibrillators. Jensen said that the funds will be enough for two defibrillators, one will be in the sheriff's office and one will be carried by one of the officers in a squad car.

The sheriff asked for and received approval to advertise for a programmer/trainer for the jail as recommended by the Jail Committee. Jensen noted that the Department of Corrections has had concerns with the lack of a programmer in the jail area. The intention is to give the inmates something constructive to do other than playing cards. The employee's responsibility will include "religious, recreational, educational, and vocational training and counseling." There will also be training provided to detention deputies.

Jamie Fenske, Jail Administrator, said the goal is to "ultimately help people so they don't come back to jail." The employee will also be doing jail duties as a jailer part time.

Sheriff Jensen requested that the boarding rate be increased from $8.00 to $8.50 per prisoner per day as of March 1 and that it be increased again to $9.00 as of January 1, 2009. He noted that there has not been an increase since the early 1990s. The rate provides for food, preparation, and labor. The increases were approved.

Other Business

• County Recorder David Kiehne asked the board to consider the purchase of a digital copier, printer and scanning system to scan plats. He said that there was a special offer to include color free for a limited time, which would be a savings of $2400. He also said that color could be added at a later date. The scanner copier is a large format unit (36") and would not be used for day to day office copying. The board approved the purchase from Information Systems Corporation out of Fargo, ND. The total cost will be $17,726 with the money to come out of allocated funds.

• County Coordinator Karen Brown explained the problem with Public Health Director Sharon Serfling's laptop computer. The computer crashed, some files were not backed up, and an estimate to retrieve the files runs from $500 to $1800. The company in Edina, a special high tech facility, that would do the work would do a free analysis to see how much can be retrieved. There will be no cost if none can be retrieved.

Bakke was concerned about this loss of data being a problem again. Chairman Randy Dahl said that a policy needs to be put in place to require data to be backed up, especially with department heads. Brown suggested that Information Systems Jeff Cooper bring options to the Technology Committee for a back up policy. Bakke suggested that Brown send out a message to all employees to back up the data on their computers. The board approved hiring the Edina company to try to retrieve the data at a maximum of $1800.

The purchase of a replacement laptop for the Public Health Director was also approved.

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