Fulton County DSS cases on the decline

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County Department of Social Services Commissioner Sheryda Cooper declared, Tuesday, it is “not the case” it’s easy to get welfare benefits in the county.

Cooper addressed that topic and others during a DSS 2017 statistical synopsis she provided to the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee at the County Office Building. Some of the analysis showed comparisons to contiguous counties.

Data showed Fulton County’s temporary assistance for individuals dropped from 390 in December 2016 to 355 in December 2017.

Fulton County has had fewerthan half as many overall temporary assistance cases at 220 for 2017, than Montgomery County, which had 513 and is a smaller county populationwise. Saratoga County — a county of 126,000 residents — had 322 temporary assistance cases in 2017. Herkimer County — with a population of 10,000 more than Fulton County — had nearly twice as many cases at 411.

“At least for the public assistance caseload, it’s indicative of how our staff works at it,” Cooper said.

Fulton County’s Medicaid total of 4,827 at the end of the year was higher than Montgomery County’s total of 4,391.

“Our caseload is pretty much down to the aged and the disabled,” Cooper said.

Fulton County’s SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cases stood at 4,331 by year’s end. That figure was slightly lower than Montgomery County’s 4,388 cases and lower than Herkimer County’s 4,789 cases.

Cooper said SNAP cases have increased statewide for years, but decreased the last few months.

In other DSS statistical data, Fulton County had 34 children in foster care by the end of 2017, although those figures tend to fluctuate. Montgomery County had 76 foster care cases.

“We’re doing well at 34,” Cooper said.

She said Fulton County had 21 foster board homes, but such residences are not just in the county. Cooper said that sometimes the county has to contract out for facilities if it doesn’t have a certified home.

“We do use therapeutic foster care quite a bit,” Cooper said.

Fulton County DSS saw an increase in its child protective cases from 1,413 in 2016 to 1,479 in 2017. Both child support collections at $6.32 million for 2017, and the child support caseload at 3,714 both saw declines from the previous year.

“The TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] caseload has gone down the last several years,” Cooper said.

Cooper provided this child protective cases data: temporary order of protection, 2016 — 45; 2017 — 35; child abuse, 2016 —five, 2017 — four; violations, 2016 – 14, 2017 — nine; removal hearings, 2016 — five, 2017— 10.

Child support collections rose from $6.43 million for 2016 to $6.74 million up to November 2017. She said the staff works hard at this.

“It gives us more opportunity to do enforcement,” Cooper said.

The DSS official went on to say there “could be cuts” to agencies such as DSS with the administration of President Donald Trump.

Johnstown Town Supervisor Jack Wilson gave Cooper a “job well done” on her synopsis.

“This report is great,” Wilson said.

Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria also credited DSS with its welfare fraud work.

“We feel lucky we have the staff allotted to do it,” Cooper responded.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

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