Thursday, March 14, 2013

OC Freeholders: Demands on social services increase

Programs Help Those Affected by Ailing Economy

TOMS RIVER – Families and individuals living in Ocean County that have been negatively affected by an ailing economy continue to find help at the Ocean County Board of Social Services.

"Over the last five years we have seen increases of more than 100 and 200 percent for some of our social service programs," said Freeholder Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Board of Social Services. "Many of our citizens in Ocean County have been affected by the downturn in the economy. These programs and services provide a lifeline as they work toward regaining employment and keeping a roof over their head."

Little noted that since 2007, the number of people accessing services and programs provided by the Board of Social Services have increased in some cases more than 200 percent.

He said applications for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families were up 94 percent while General Assistance was up 103 percent and requests for food stamps increased by almost 263 percent from 2007 with 60,297 people receiving the help. As of January 2013, 2,554 people were accessing General Assistance, and 3,979 are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Little noted that the increases seen over the last five years have been related to negative changes in the economy with many residents losing jobs and as a result losing income.

He added there is a concern that with federal assistance expected to come to an end following Superstorm Sandy that there may be another increase in the number of people seeking assistance from the Ocean County Board of Social Services.

"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," Little said. "It's important our residents – whether affected by the storm or the economy - know they have a place to turn to during these difficult times."

The Board of Social Services administers more than 60 programs to assist needy and under-privileged families and individuals living in Ocean County. In 2012, the Board of Social Services saw 121,481 people.

"Funding for these programs comes from federal, state and county sources," he said.

Little said more than $600 million in state and federal funds flow through the Board of Social Services for programs and services. In addition, Ocean County earmarked $20 million for assistance programs.

He added that about 3,900 persons, on any given night, are receiving help from social services including temporary rental assistance, temporary shelter, back rent/mortgage assistance and other rental assistance programs.

Little noted that since 2007, households being provided homeless services increased by more than 105 percent with 882 people receiving help in 2007 while 1,842 accessed the services in 2012.

"We have seen a spike in the number of people that have reached out to the after hours special response provided by social services," Little said. "The number increased from 1,335 in 2009 to 1884 last year. We make every effort to accommodate everyone who needs help no matter what the time - day or night."

Little commended the staff at the Board of Social Services for making every effort to help those who need assistance.

"The staff at the Board of Social Services is working hard to provide the support and help needed during these difficult times," Little said. "The Board of Freeholders commends the Social Service staff for the thorough job it is doing."

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