3/24/2011--San Mateo County gives Human Services $3.7M
By Michelle Durand
San Mateo Daily Journal
The $3.7 million given to the Human Services Agency yesterday by county supervisors
means more needy residents will receive timely help with food, shelter and health care,
say officials of the department who’ve been trying to manage growing caseloads with
fewer available dollars.
The agency, burdened by a $5.3 million structural deficit, asked the Board of Supervisors
for a mix of one-time funds and ongoing help while it closes the gap and waits for
expected state cuts. The board unanimously approved the request, of which $817,000 will
be continuous to cover an increase in the general assistance program.
The deficit’s remaining $1.6 million will be eliminated by department reductions.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, both supervisors Carole Groom and Adrienne Tissier called
the fund transfer tough but necessary to help residents and stave off potentially more
expensive care down the road.
The county’s new wave of applicants are individuals who may have never needed help
before, may be clueless about what help is available and are forced to make decisions like
delaying preventative health care.
“They’re waiting for something bad to happen. Then they go to the ER which we all
know is more expensive,” said Clarisa Simon Soriano, HSA’s economic self-sufficiency
Slowing the eligibility process exacerbates the situation, she said.
Currently, HSA staff is able to process 92 percent of its aid applications within 90 days
but, without the board’s funding yesterday, that could slip to six to nine months, Soriano
The needy would then be left in limbo, waiting for eligibility and relying on nonprofits
and safety net services which are already financially strapped themselves.
The current fiscal year’s deficit is chalked up to the economic downturn, ongoing
shortfalls in state, federal and local money needed for both mandatory and discretionary
programs and continuing hikes in the cost of operations, programs and manpower.
The mandatory programs are the primary challenge because the county must fund them,
but it doesn’t often have the needed money.
In November 2010 — four months later than usual because of the state budget stalemate
— HSA received $2.9 million less in its Medi-Cal allocation.
The pool of people needing help is growing, too.
That same month, the county program received more than 1,900 applications which in
turn swelled the caseloads for each benefits analyst beyond 600.
Over the past four years, assistance applications have steadily risen by approximately 65
percent. There are currently 63,863 San Mateo County adults and children in Medi-Cal
and the general assistance caseload has nearly doubled since 2006, according to HSA
Meanwhile, officials said the HSA workforce has shrunk from 858 to 770 in the last two