Thursday, January 27, 2011

OC Social Services serving more, new customers

From the Ocean County Freeholders;

County Provides Help to Those in Need

TOMS RIVER – With the continuing downturn in the economy and unemployment benefits running out, families that have never turned to the Ocean County Board of Social Services for assistance are doing so now.

"Ocean County ranks among the top three counties in the state of New Jersey for the number of applications for food stamps, general assistance and temporary assistance for needy families," said Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Board of Social Services. "More and more families and individuals are turning to us for help."

According to the New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Family Development, Middlesex, Hudson and Ocean counties showed the highest percentage increase for individuals receiving general assistance since November 2009. Ocean County increased by 27.3 percent according to a November 2010 state report.

The state report also noted Ocean County having the highest increase in food stamp applications in the state, followed by Middlesex and Morris counties.

The number of persons receiving food stamps in Ocean County increased by 39 percent with more than 42,000 people receiving the assistance. That number includes 23,602 children.

In addition, the county saw a 13.8 percent increase in the number of families receiving temporary assistance for needy families from 2009 to 2010.

Mary Fran McFadden, director of the Ocean County Board of Social Services, noted that the decline in the housing market and the construction trades, in part, has resulted in more families seeking assistance from social services.

"When construction slowed down many of these families turned to unemployment. With unemployment benefits depleted, they often turn to us," she said.

"The statistics paint a difficult story for many of our residents," said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. "We are continuing to work with agencies and businesses in an effort to stimulate the local economy so that employment opportunities increase and we can return individuals to work so these families will not have to rely on social services."

Little said that now, in particular, the programs and services administered by the Board are increasingly seen as a financial lifeline for many families who are affected by unemployment and loss of income.

"I commend the workers at the Board of Social Services," Little said. "They do an excellent job in assisting people access the help that is available. It's important our residents know they have a place to turn during these difficult times."

Little said that the Board of Social Services administers more than 70 programs to assist needy and under-privileged families and individuals living in Ocean County. More than $500 million in state and federal funds flow through the Board of Social Services for programs and services. In addition, Ocean County earmarked $19 million for assistance programs.

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