In the wake of the Social Services Agency's second wave of layoffs, the director said Wednesday that the pain of cutting between 400 and 500 staff employees will soon be felt by Orange County residents--not just the agency's employees.
Agency Director Larry Leaman said that cases requiring crisis intervention probably will still get the quick attention they deserve.
But everyone else seeking service from the agency will either wait in long lines, travel long distances or have their requests left unanswered.
Leaman spoke of the layoffs' inevitable effect on service, while announcing that the agency has already terminated 139 employees in two rounds of job cuts, and another 400--mostly welfare eligibility workers--will receive their notices April 27 and May 11.
Although the department is issuing 539 notices, senior employees have the option of bumping down into other jobs, or into some vacant positions, Leaman said, and it is estimated that a total of about 415 agency employees will lose their jobs.
Also, welfare offices in Anaheim, Garden Grove and Costa Mesa will be closed, as will the Child Abuse Services Team office in Laguna Hills.
"We estimate that between 12% and 15% of the people in the county receive some of our services, so there definitely will be an impact. . . . We're just hoping that the consequences will not be extreme," Leaman said.
Within the agency, the financial assistance department, which processes welfare, general relief and Medi-Cal applications, is taking the hardest hit. The layoffs come at a time when applications for these services are soaring at unprecedented rates, according to Financial Assistance Director Angelo Doti.
Every week, the division deals with an average of 225 families who are homeless and in immediate need of food stamps, Doti said, and 30,000 residents apply for welfare and Medi-Cal each month. These residents will not only be waiting in long lines, but sometimes will be obliged to wait days or weeks for the food stamps, money or medicine they need.
Also, a 60% reduction in quality control staff for welfare and food stamps means the department no longer will be able to scour applications for fraud--double- and triple-checking information, and making home visits to applicants.
The fraud referral program with the district attorney's office, however, will remain intact, Doti said. The department sends about 20% of all applications for Aid to Families with Dependent Children to the district attorney's office for investigation, Doti said, and 65% of those are found to be fraudulent, he said.
"But not only are we going to have increased fraud, we won't be able to document the worsening of the situation," because the employees who have performed such tasks will be gone, Doti said.
While the financial assistance department will suffer the greatest reduction in staff, Children's Services and Adult Services will also be somewhat disabled by the exodus of employees, Leaman said. Those departments now are working on a "wholesale redesign," Leaman said.
As the layoffs continue, Leaman said, the county is scrambling to help departing employees find work. Previous "raids" on county employees by private businesses make him optimistic that they will find new jobs.
"I think it's a myth that county employees are not marketable," Leaman said. "We're dealing with a quality product here."
An employment office has been set up in the Orange County Archives Office, in the basement of the Old County Courthouse on Santa Ana Boulevard, and so far the center has received 1,827 visits and calls, both from county employees looking for work and for employers interested in hiring county employees.