The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) will be cutting at least 320 jobs for fiscal year 2010. The layoffs come at a time when employees in this field are in huge demand. The cuts come as a result of the latest state budget which is affecting government jobs throughout Michigan.The cuts, which were signed in at the end of October, generated a large response from employees of DHS. Last Wednesday a group of 7 DHS workers spoke to a Michigan House committee to explain the hardships they have been dealing with. .
Caseworkers are currently over-loaded with an average of 600 to 900 clients. To work efficiently they need to have at least half that. To be keeping up with the demand of the departments services, they should have been adding 700 more jobs, instead of taking more than 300 away. The amount of client cases has increased by around 400,000 since just last year.
A declining unemployment rate and a stagnant economy are the main reasons for the congestion in the department. They are currently providing 1.6 million workers with food assistance and another 1.8 million people with medicaid benefits. They help more than 2.2 million Michigan residents with some type of assistance.
On top of needing more workers, instead of less, a new need for the department has also emerged right when the funding has run out. The representatives of DHS also explained to the House committee how frustration has been mounting among clients in their offices and lobbies and how there is a need for more security to protect workers and other clients.
The overcrowding, long lines, and long waits on hold have proven to get the best of some clients. Verbal and physical threats have been made against many of the department workers recently. In one instance, at a Jackson county DHS office, a case worker felt so threatened that a restraining order was filed against a client. In an office in Wayne County, a client was so frustrated that a brick was thrown through a lobby window endangering dozens of workers and citizens.
The lack of caseworkers and security paired with a huge rise in those who are in need of assistance make for what has been described as a, "desperate situation." Workers at DHS have also been struggling with old faulty computer systems that have been slowing their work down and making it difficult to respond to all of their clients needs.
Even as the department has pleaded with lawmakers, there still may be little done about the funding cuts. State employees in corrections, the Secretary of State and other areas of state government are also being forced to do layoffs because of the new budget. Unfortunately, the people laid off of these jobs may soon be turning to the Department of Human Services for help themselves, leading to an even more overwhelmed situation for the fewer employees of the department.
Sources and Related Content: