By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer
Kelly Beasley, Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) director for Morgan, Greene, Oconee, and Jasper Counties, spoke to the Morgan County Board of Commissioners during their Oct. 3 meeting. Beasley gave an overview of the benefits issued by the Morgan County DFCS during the 2012 fiscal year and discussed Georgia DFCS’ statewide, technology-based benefit management program, Georgia One.
Beasley, who stated that she has worked with DFCS for 20 years, told the board that Morgan County citizens received a total of more than $15,900,000 in benefits and expenditures during the 2012 fiscal year.
Approximately $5,900,000 in Food Stamp benefits were issued to 3,822 recipients in Morgan County, and more than $9,700,000 in Medicaid benefits were paid during the 2012 fiscal year.
Childcare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Family Foster Care, and Family Preservation Services benefits made up the remaining Morgan County benefits of almost $270,000.
Beasley also stated that there are currently 14 Morgan County children in foster care.
In February, Morgan County began utilizing Georgia One as the primary method that Morgan County citizens use to access their benefits.
According to a pamphlet issued by the Georgia Department of Human Services, the Georgia One program will “provide convenient access, service accountability, and an improved customer experience for those in need of our services.”
Beasley stated that the program is internet-based. People apply for and manage their benefits online and are even directed towards computers located in the local DFCS offices, should they come in person.
Information for eligibility is scanned into the state database in DFCS offices to enable statewide access, and personal interviews take place over the telephone.
Beasley noted that there is “no face to face” in the process and said that there has been some staff concern that beneficiaries have no “direct connection” with their case managers.
According to Beasley, the state is aware of those concerns, but stated that Georgia One was created as a “state-wide model.”
Commission Chair Ellen Warren expressed concern for the “semiliterate” citizens of Morgan County, who do not have experience with working with computers and would have trouble dealing with Georgia One in order to receive their benefits.
“It just seems that people give up in frustration,” said Warren.
Commissioner Andrew Ainslie agreed with Warren and stated that the approximate 25 percent of the county that does not have the technology to access Georgia One will be the ones that need DFCS benefits.
“They want to speak to a human being,” said Ainslie.
Warren also pointed out the difficulty of being able to be in touch with DFCS, since telephone directory book aren’t as widespread as they once were.
“Numbers aren’t easily accessible,” said Warren.
Beasley assured the BOC that local people can always get in touch with the Morgan County DFCS office by calling 706-343-5800. The statewide contact number is 1-877-423-4746.
Warren then asked Beasley about the standard procedure for dealing with a abuse complaint.
Beasley explained that during the initial contact, information will be gathered regarding the situation, before the information is passed to a supervisor. The supervisor then sorts the complaint into one of three categories for response; DFCS either decides that the situation does not require any action on their part, gives support within five days for less urgent matters, or initiates an investigation, which means that DFCS will make contact within 24 hours.
Beasley also stated that law officers receive each report received by DFCS.
Warren then asked Beasley what the county can do to aid the local DFCS office. Beasley responded that individual commissioners can use their political influences to ask legislators to keep from cutting into DFCS budgets.
Beasley said that as the requests for assistance have been increasing, staffing has been reducing. She said that, although they currently have 14 to 15 people on staff, whereas they only had 4 to 5 a few years ago, they are not still fully staffed.
Ainslie worried that staffing deficiencies, as well as Beasley having to direct four counties simultaneously, could create situations where kids are “falling though the cracks.”
The BOC approved an addendum to the contract service arrangement agreement between AT&T and Morgan County to include a Netclock system.
According to Morgan County Fire Chief Mark Melvin, the system synchronizes the county’s 911 equipment in order to eliminate time documentation errors that could arise as the result of having systems that are not properly synchronized.
The systems’ cost, a non-recurring rate of more than $9,200, is included in the county’s current E 911 budget.
The BOC approved the addendum unanimously.
During the meeting, the BOC also approved:
A conditional use permit for Union Springs Baptist Church allowing the construction of a pavilion on the property at 1400 West Main Street, Rutledge;
A conditional use permit for Providence Real Estate Consulting for a 195-foot monopole telecommunications tower on the property at the intersection of Hardeman Mill Road and Highway 83;
A new position classification and pay band system for Morgan County;
A memorandum of understanding between Morgan County Emergency Management Agency and the Morgan County Amateur Radio Emergency Radio Service;
The Morgan County Public Works’ $164,000-plus milling project on Grayson’s Point and Morgan Estates, which will be funded by SPLOST;
A quote from Mid State Striping for re-striping portions of Davis Academy, High Shoals, Clack and Reid Ferry Roads for almost $36,000, which will be funded from SPLOST;
A motion to hold the a Fall Free Turn-In Week for 2013 before changing to a once yearly program as of spring 2014;
October 2013 payables of more than $495,000 for the General Fund, approximately $417,000 for Electronic Transfers, and more than $209,000 for SPLOST;
August 2013 staff reports, as presented at the Sept. 24 work session;
Calendars for the months of Sept., Oct., and Nov. 2013;
And county holidays for 2014.