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Human Services Committee

September 2, 2020 - 2:14am

Utilization of public libraries is about to take off, mirroring what happened following the Great Recession of 2007-2009 when the housing industry crashed, banks faltered and the stock market plummeted.

That’s how Bob Conrad, director of the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, sees it, and he expressed those views and more on Monday during a departmental review for the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

Conrad said the peak year for public libraries in the United States and this county was 2010 as Americans responded to the economic downturn.

“And we’re in the midst of another one,” he said, noting that library services are in greater demand due to the trying times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accompanied by directors from five other Genesee County libraries and Tom Bindeman, executive director of the Nioga Library System, Conrad asked legislators to not reduce their annual financial support of these institutions.

“Please keep funding the library (at the 2019 level) and we will do what we can on our end to keep the facilities open … and maintain funding from our primary funders,” Conrad said, adding that Genesee County’s contribution amounts to about 10 percent of the what the libraries spend on materials.

Per the libraries’ written report, “County funds are earmarked for library materials only, so the money will go towards books and other resources to help children learn to read, to help people get through hard times, and to help people develop skills and find jobs.”

County Manager Matt Landers revealed that the libraries will receive $41,680 for 2020, but couldn’t guarantee that figure for 2021. The amount will depend upon budget proposals submitted by county department heads (and ultimately approved); outside agencies such as the libraries will be considered after that.

Richmond Memorial Library, by far the largest of the six Genesee County facilities, receives about half of the county funding, which is distributed according to a formula based on service population, circulation and the amount of spending on materials.

Bindeman reported that the Nioga Library System of 21 libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties is facing a 24-percent cut in funding from New York State this year and possibly more in 2021.

“We’re looking at laying off three people and I’m taking a 5-percent cut in my salary, and we’re looking at reducing services,” he said. “There are rumors it could go up to 40 percent and then we’d be looking at a merger or really going down to barebones.”

He said Nioga was able to receive $108,000 in Payroll Protection Program funds.

“If I didn’t get it, our deficit would have been over $300,000,” he said, which represents about a third of its annual budget. “So, that would have been tough.”

Libraries are open, but functioning under strict guidelines as mandated by the state. Those restrictions include no sitting, reading, gathering, playing, and no in-person library programs of more than 25 people.

Conrad said Richmond Memorial saw a big after-school crowd during a normal year, but he doesn’t expect that to continue.

“Our current safety plan allows people to come into the building and check materials out and to use an assigned computer for essential purposes only,” he said. “We’re expecting almost zero school and after-school presence. It’s going to affect our stats and our numbers, but not necessarily our circulation.”

The subject of internet access for students, especially in rural areas, also was discussed.

Kim Gibson, director of Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield, said she and her staff are committed to “doing whatever we can” to (social distance) students so they can do their homework.

She said Oakfield-Alabama Superintendent John Fisgus suggested a partnership between the school district and the library, something that would be beneficial if O-A’s plan of 100-percent in-person learning had to be changed.

“We’re very fortunate to have a nice size library, building-wise,” Gibson said, noting that the library increased its bandwidth for Wi-Fi.

She also said that 30 percent of O-A families do not have access to the internet.

“We have access to Wi-Fi upstairs and downstairs …,” she said. “I want to be there for these kids. We have it (Wi-Fi) open 24/7 outside and I see these kids out there trying to do their homework.”

The other directors at the meeting were Diana Reding, Corfu Public Library; Josselyn Borowiec, Hollwedel Memorial Library, Pavilion; Nancy Bailey, Byron-Bergen Public Library, and Betsy Halvorsen, Woodward Memorial Library, Le Roy.

Three of the libraries – Richmond, Woodward and Corfu – are connected to (but not regulated by) school districts and receive the bulk of their funding from property taxes as voted on by the public.

The Byron-Bergen, Pavilion and Oakfield libraries are of the municipal type, with funding derived through sales and income taxes from the towns and/or villages they serve. Bailey reported that the B-B library is in the process of changing to the school district variety.

July 13, 2020 - 6:36pm

Calling 2020 a “tumultuous year” for first-time homebuyers, Mary Leo, executive director of The Housing Council at PathStone, today presented the annual report of the agency’s counseling and owner-occupied rehabilitation programs today to the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

“The lack of housing choices … makes it very competitive” for those looking to capitalize on federal programs and banking institutions’ willingness to purchase their first homes, said Leo, an 11-year employee of the agency who was hired as executive director recently.

Leo said 36 of a possible 58 family units that completed a homeownership program were able to close on their first house, which means that 22 graduates are “still out shopping.”

Her report, covering July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, indicated that PathStone’s relationships with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development, Habitat for Humanity and local banks “have resulted in a growing pipeline of referrals to the agency,” which received $12,150 from Genesee County in 2019.

The 36 families able to purchase a home through the program are 15 more than the previous year.

Leo also said that finding one-bedroom apartments is a challenge, with “more (financial) support available than apartments."

She mentioned the agency’s foreclosure prevention arm that resolved 11 pending cases in Genesee County over the past 12 months.

PathStone’s Genesee County Handyman program assisted 92 senior citizens, down from 2018-19 due to a decrease in funding and COVID-19, she said.

“We anticipate a rise in the need for this service in the coming months,” she said.

On the subject of funding, Leo said funding remains “flat or slightly down.”

She explained that the federal Housing and Urban Development agency issues housing awards based on the number of counselors in the office and not on the number of clients served as was the case in previous years. Since Genesee County has just one certified counselor, it has resulted in long wait times for applicants.

Genesee County’s contribution is used for a portion of staffing costs for the homeownership counselor, the deputy of Housing & Grants Programs for grant writing and the county’s Handyman Program. The remaining funds are used for a portion of office space and supplies.

Leo said PathStone has received funding from several other sources, including Genesee County United Way, Key Bank, Citizens Bank, M&T Bank and HUD Housing Counseling.

A funding request also went out to Rochester Area Community Foundation to support the Genesee County Handyman Program, Leo said.

Direct subsidies for first-time buyers include a $300,000 grant from Affordable Housing Corporation for acquisition/rehabilitation, $40,000 from NYS RESTORE and $100,000 from Affordable Housing Corporation for owner-occupied rehabilitation.

In other developments, the Human Services Committee:

-- Approved a contract for $25 per hour, not to exceed $4,500, with Susan Gagne to serve as suicide prevention coalition coordinator through the county’s Community Mental Health Services agency. The pact is set to run through the end of this year.

Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia said filling this position is “crucial” in light of an increase in attempted suicides since COVID-19.

-- Approved the acceptance of two grants for the Office for the Aging from the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Muriel H. Marshall Fund – one for $88,000 for centralized intake and the other for marketing coordination. The grants are to be utilized through June 30, 2021.

-- Approved a contract with Tender Loving Family Care Inc., of Webster, for social adult day care services at the rates of $87 per day per person for a five-hour block, $105 per day per person for a full day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and $120 per day per person for an extended full day (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

The agreement stipulates that expenses will not exceed $37,750 for the period of July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. It is being funded by: $14,040 under Title III-E Respite grant; $18,720 from the Unmet Needs grant; $990 from Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly grant; and $4,000 from Western New York Alzheimer's Disease Caregiver Support Initiative.

June 2, 2020 - 9:15am

Mention the Genesee County Youth Bureau and thoughts of after-school activities or arts and crafts may come to mind. But, as you learn more about the agency’s operation, it becomes clear that interaction with today’s adolescent population is not all fun and games.

Youth Bureau Director Jocelyn Sikorski touched on a couple of the more serious issues on Monday as she presented a departmental review and outlook at the County Legislature’s Human Services Committee Zoom videoconferencing meeting.

Sikorski said the bureau received 30 referrals – the most ever – to Youth Court in 2019, with 24 of them coming from law enforcement and the remainder from schools and the Probation Department.

Eighteen of the referrals (and subsequent trials) occurred in the last three months of the year, resulting in a very busy time for Program Coordinator Chelsea Elliott and Program Assistant Chelsea Green, she said.

She recounted the story of a 15-year-old boy who was referred to Youth Court on a criminal mischief complaint and ended up having to perform 35 hours of community service, write three essays for reflection and a letter of apology, and take anger management classes.

“A lot of his issues were with his father, specifically, and as a result, she (Elliott) placed them to do community service at our local animal shelter,” Sikorski said. “And because of his age they asked that a parent be with him.”

Sikorski said that the boy and his dad completed the service together at the animal shelter and they continue to do so.

“On top of completing the community service hours and building the relationship with his father – which was something that was vital to his success – they are still supporting our local animal shelter,” Sikorski reported. “He is one of our positives out of our Youth Court system. They’re all very positive, but that’s one that really stood out.”

The director also shared a story connected to the department’s Safe Harbour program that deals with child trafficking and human trafficking. The youth bureau is in the first year of a five-year funding cycle through a contract with the Department of Social Services.

“Since COVID started, we had a call from Restore (a program of Planned Parenthood) and they said they have a young woman who they believed is being trafficked who was coming in for medical services, but they couldn’t ask her because the individual who was potentially trafficking her was coming to all her appointments,” Sikorski said.

Due to the virus guidelines, that other person was not allowed in the exam room, and that gave counselors a chance to provide resources such as domestic violence information and a list of places where the woman could go for temporary housing.

Sikorski said the young woman has two small children, so “she’s not necessarily ready to leave, but if she needs help, she knows where she can get it now and they were able to have that conversation with her.”

She said the bureau’s goal this year is to provide community education and training and to conduct a media campaign leading to a needs assessment to youth-serving professionals (police, school counselors) who work with anyone that would come in contact with a young person who could be at risk of being trafficked.

In 2019, the youth bureau distributed 35 Go Bags to at-risk or runaway youth, Sikorski said. These backpacks include supplies for a night – health and beauty products, a blanket, hat and gloves, granola bars, trail mix, bottled water and gift card for coffee. Twenty-seven of the Go Bags went to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, which has a bag in the trunk of all its patrol cars.

On the subject of activities and events for youth, Sikorski said COVID-19 has brought things to a standstill and that could be the case for a while longer since youth programs are in Phase Four of the state’s reopening plan.

“Our funded programs, all but one are closed and not operating at this time,” she said. “I’m waiting to hear back from some of our funded youth rec programs for the summer months.”

Sikorski said springtime is normally the bureau’s busiest time of the year,

“About every other week we had major events scheduled, and moving into the summer as well that we have had to cancel or postpone,” she said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll have some semblance of normalcy in the fall where we will be able to get back to doing the things we routinely do for our community, but it has been a challenge.”

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The Genesee County Youth Bureau provides a variety of services, activities and events, primarily in Genesee County, including the Liberty Center for Youth in the City of Batavia, and also in Orleans County. For more information, go to its website

May 5, 2020 - 9:37am

The local public health director on Monday said he is a bit wary about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional approach to reopening the economy will affect Genesee County.

“I do have some concerns around the regional approach here as we’re going to be able to move forward and (or) get stuck on pause based on what our entire region (Finger Lakes) does, and if you look at the metrics, it’s going to be driven by data,” said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans Health Departments.

Speaking at the Human Services Committee meeting of the Genesee County Legislature, Pettit said the region is “lining up a little bit more now” with the hospitalization rates that are part of the equation leading toward increased business activity.

“It’s based on 100,000 residents, so look at our Finger Lakes Region,” he said. “I think we’re around 1.3 million, maybe a little less, and we have to meet certain data points.”

On Monday, the governor stated that the Finger Lakes Region meets five of the seven metrics needed to reopen safely: decline in hospitalizations; decline in hospital deaths; new hospitalizations; percentage of hospital beds available; and percentage of ICU beds available.

The region does not meet requirements dealing with the number of residents tested monthly and the number of contract tracers, the governor said.

Pettit acknowledged that the governor's latest press conference provided more clarity in his four-phase approach to reopening by sharing the “different metrics we need to go through in order to progress.”

“We’ve been asking for weeks now exactly what this is going to look like, so it’s starting to shape up a little bit,” he said.

He said the county’s plan is to send information to businesses and other organizations with some guidance so, “hopefully when we get to Phase 1 here and we get to launch on May 15th – which we’re optimistic will happen – all of our essential businesses that will be added in, mainly around construction, manufacturing and some retailers, etc., will be ready to go.”

County Manager Jay Gsell indicated that the Finger Lakes Region is one of the five regions that on May 15th will be able to enter Phase 1.

“If our metrics and our data still continue to look positive, we should be able to look at the phasing of reopening of the Finger Lakes Region, which Genesee County is part of. That’s one small sliver of good news, at least this afternoon around 4:25,” he said.

Pettit was asked about antibody testing in Genesee County, and said that it is not widely available in this region.

“Unfortunately, just like the testing, we seem to be lagging behind,” he said. “We are getting some results in from antibody testing. We have not had anybody as of last Friday that had shown they had antibodies. There are some Genesee County residents that have been tested (for antibodies) at random sites the state has or health care workers.”

He said antibody testing reveals a “level of exposure to the virus … helping us understand how much of our community has been exposed, but it doesn’t really tell us much beyond that about protection and immunity … it’s still too new.”

The Human Services Committee passed a resolution accepting an additional $4,726 in funding from the New York Department of Health to cover increased workload costs in connection with early intervention administration as it pertains to referrals of children showing signs of lead poisoning.

In other developments, the committee voted in favor of four contracts pertaining to the Office for the Aging:

-- Increasing the amount of an agreement with ARC of Genesee Orleans by $40,000 for meal service preparation as demand has risen due to COVID-19. The original amount for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 was $223,927.

Office for the Aging Director Diana Fox said the additional expense is covered by federal stimulus funds and other funding streams that were directed to the agency. She also said that serving congregate meals has given way to home-delivered meals at this time.

-- Extending an agreement with the National Council on Aging Inc., to provide Aging in Mastery Program sessions through the end of the year -- beyond the previously approved May 2020.

The program offers interactive classes for adults 55 and older that promote behaviors that improve health, economic security, self-esteem and social activity.

-- Renewing a RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) grant of $47,500 through March 31, 2021 from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The grant, which was included in the 2020 county budget, enables the agency to utilize the network of local volunteers to assist older citizens in various areas, including coping skills, veterans’ support, environmental stewardship, reducing food insecurity, emergency preparedness and opioid awareness.

-- Renewing a contract with Willcare Inc., to oversee consumer-directed in-home services from June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021 at hourly rates ranging from $20.51 to $23.11 per hour, for a total not to exceed $25,792 for the specified year.

Under this plan, the control of homecare services is shifted from homecare agencies – which in many cases are unable to accommodate all requests -- to the consumer (or representative) for budgeting, care planning, decision-making and arranging for services and staffing.

May 4, 2020 - 6:40pm

Looking to literally buy some time while waiting to see if another round of federal stimulus funding transpires, the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee today tabled a pair of resolutions connected to Mercy Flight and the Genesee County Fair.

After hearing reports from Michael Gugliuzza, director of medical operations for Mercy Flight, and Amanda Gallo of the Genesee County Ag Society that touched upon lower revenues and uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 Pandemic, respectively, committee members voted to hold off on contracts that specified the amount of the county’s financial support for the two agencies.

The resolution for Mercy Flight funding calls for the county to contribute $12,825 to back air medical transfer service in the county for 2020. That amount is the same as what was provided in 2019.

The resolution for the Ag Society has the county’s sponsorship of 4-H Judging and Premiums during the 2020 Genesee County Fair at $11,000, which also mirrors last year’s support.

County Manager Jay Gsell informed the committee that Mercy EMS did receive money for Personal Protection Equipment and from the first round of federal stimulus because of its combined operations (ground and air service), but that wasn’t enough to make up for a drop-off in activity.

“You heard Mike talking about what the ground service and flight service have been experiencing – about a 40 percent drop in their actual service calls, and that’s really since the beginning of this year,” Gsell said. “They’re moving through it with regard to both the commitment that they have and obviously their significant presence here in the county, both at the County Airport and at Gateway II across Route 98 from the original county industrial park.”

The Genesee County Fair currently is scheduled for July 25-August 1, but those dates aren’t etched in stone due to the coronavirus and its impact upon the local business community.

“Once they have a fair date for certain, (funding is done) on a reimbursement basis – once the judging occurs,” Gsell said. “If they have it and they do the judging, then we make the payment based on the invoices, so we have a little bit of time there.”

Committee Chair Andrew Young, noting the lack of revenue and other factors, asked if this is something “that we can hold off on until we understand what’s going on with our revenue?”

To which Gsell responded: “We’d like to think that between the governor and Mr. (Robert) Mujica (Jr., NYS budget director) that they’ll fairly soon start telling us what they’re going to be doing with the state budget … and then we start looking at what that means to us in terms of general state aid and obviously sales tax – with sales tax being the really big driver.”

Gsell also said he hoped that another federal stimulus bill provides money to fund state and local governments by the end of the month, which would mean “another trillion-plus dollars is put into play across the country.”

Committee members Gregg Torrey and John Deleo along with alternate member Gordon Dibble joined Young in voting to table the resolutions, which likely will be placed on the group’s June 1 meeting agenda.

“We will wade through this,” Young said. “The funding through the next stimulus bill is really the wild card. I don’t know that we have a lot of other good news to look forward to … if it doesn’t happen, we’ll have to deal with it.”

June 4, 2019 - 3:19pm

A new interim director for Genesee County Community Mental Health Services was announced Monday at the Human Services Committee meeting.

Bernadette Bergman, the agency's board president, told committee members that the resignation of Director Ellery Reaves has been accepted and Augusta Welsh will serve as interim director through July 14 while the position is advertised.

If the job cannot be filled within 60–90 days, another interim mental health director from a neighboring county will fill the gap until a permanent director is appointed.

The prospect of sharing the agency's services with another county was also debated.

The committee discussed the possibility of a mental health director serving both Genesee and Erie counties.

Legislator Gordon Dibble noted the agency has not committed to shared services, but it is looking into other counties’ practices and whether a dual-county mental health director position would meet state requirements.

Committee members resolved to keep past experiences with shared services in mind as they continue to explore their options.

Welsh told the committee that Mental Health Services is collaborating with local school districts and nonprofit organizations like GCASA to reduce patients’ treatment costs and unnecessary emergency room visits. It is also seeking additional satellite locations to provide more convenient mental health and chemical dependency appointments to clients.

Welsh said the mandated new jail, once it's built, could serve as a prospective satellite site that could help maximize psychiatry services.

Also on Monday's agenda, Office for the Aging Director Ruth Spink informed the committee of slight increases in the per-unit cost of its ARC of Genesee Orleans home-delivered meals program.

The rate per meal will increase by 30 cents for home-delivered, congregate, cold/sandwich and frozen meals because state and federal funds cannot be used to cover meal preparation expenses.

“ARC is really struggling with continuing this program," Spinks said. "I think we’ve got a commitment to get through the next two years of this, but I’m not sure if they’ll be able to continue afterward just because of the increase in food costs and the increased cost in minimum wage.”

In order to prevent the end of the meal service after 10 years of success, the Office of the Aging and ARC will consider the possibility of a cooperative meal-service agreement with community organizations.

Similar to Mental Health Services, the Office for the Aging may partner with the new jail to offset rising food prices and wages of food service workers.

Lastly, the committee was provided an overview of an eight-month program for high school students that teaches leadership skills and good decision making.

City of Batavia Youth Bureau Director Jocelyn Sikorski expressed her satisfaction with the Genesee Youth Lead program and said it has garnered positive response from participants and local school districts as the 2018–19 academic year nears its end.

This community-based leadership development program immerses students in county policymaking and administration. Participants refine their problem-solving and teamwork skills during sessions that focus on a specific topic each time, targeting issues leaders in our county deal with.

These include: agriculture, health and human services, government, law enforcement, tourism, business, emergency preparedness, arts and culture, leadership opportunities, community service, team building, and job-readiness training.

“Great feedback from the kids with every session,” Sikorski said. “We evaluated every session, so we’re looking to gear up for next year. We start recruiting probably in the next week or two, and we’ll recruit all summer and then interview the kids in the fall again.”

The next Human Services Committee meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Monday, July 15 at the Old Courthouse in Batavia.

October 4, 2011 - 12:45am

For every department in Genesee County, this year’s mandated budget cuts are hard to swallow. The county legislature is forcing 5-percent cuts across the board, in order to fit the county budget under New York State’s new 2-property tax cap.

Nowhere is the hurt more apparent than at the County Office for the Aging. Director Pamela Whitmore had already lost $102,000 in annual state grant money this year – a significant blow to her 2012 budget. With the mandated 5-percent cut on top, the Office for the Aging will now have to eliminate over $134,000 in spending.

Whitmore likened the 5-percent cut to that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

“People are not going to get the level of service that they’ve gotten in the past,” Whitmore told the legislature’s Human Service Committee on Monday night.

She announced a planned $5,000 reduction to “Meals on Wheels,” which will now be on a three day-per-week delivery schedule if her budget goes according to plan. There are also pending staff cuts, social program reductions and fewer hours available for in-home services.

“Less staff means less time to do that face-to-face information and assistance – which is really the majority of what we do,” Whitmore said after the meeting.

Her message is further highlighted by this year’s census report, which shows a 16-percent increase in the over-60-year-old population in Genesee County. The census bureau also estimates that the population over 85-years-old, which is the most expensive to serve, has jumped by 33 percent in Genesee County the past decade (official numbers are not yet available for that category).

“It’d be one thing if the grant losses were just taking one program away…but most of our losses just took parts of each grant away,” Whitmore said. “So in essence, most of our services are still available, but there (are fewer) resources to provide them.”

In another Human Services report Monday, Chris Kuehl from the county nursing home told committee members that the home was able to reduce five positions to just three by consolidating some worker duties. That will save the nursing home $47,233 this year, and $104,439 in 2012, if the cuts are approved by the full legislature.

Also at the Human Services Committee, members approved the nomination of David Whitcroft as the interim public health director for Genesee County. Whitcroft's nomination comes on the heels of Randy Garney's abrupt retirement a week-and-a-half ago. Whitcroft will be paid $65,106 plus $600 in longevity pay. He officially takes over on Wednesday, if approved by the full legislature.

October 4, 2010 - 9:08pm

dss_kirkpatrick.jpg

One thing you need to know about social services and fraud is that just because a person isn't living up to your standards doesn't mean that person is getting public assistance illegally.

The lady could be on her sixth boyfriend in 10 months. She could be pregnant with her seventh son. The man down the road could be a drunk or a pack rat. Both husband and wife could sit on the front porch all day smoking Senecas, or hit the corner deli every day to buy scratchers.

None of that constitutes evidence of fraud, according to Genesee County Social Services Commissioner Eileen Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick spoke with the Human Services Committee today after a legislator raised questions about how DSS handles fraud cases.

While it's the responsibility of all DSS staff members to be on the look out for evidence of fraud, the department employs two full-time fraud investigators (the second position was created in 2006).

And those two investigators are kept busy.

Every day, DSS accepts 16 new applications for public assistance, and every one of them is a potential fraud case.

Of course, of the thousands of cases DSS handles every year, only a relatively few ever reach the stage of an actual fraud investigation.

In 2008, the two investigators formally investigated 342 cases, and there were 582 investigations in 2009.

"When you think about the number of cases we handle in our department, when you think about the thousands of cases, the number of complaints we investigate are really minuscule compared to what we are really doing," Kirkpatrick said.

A fraud investigation can either begin with a complaint, or during the initial application process, Kirpatrick said.

During the interview process, DSS workers look for inconsistencies, using a standardized set of "red flags": Has the applicant recently moved into the county; no documentation; primary tenant with no utility bills; landlord does not verify household composition; or an invalid social security number, for example.

Tips might come from law enforcement, other social services departments, friends, neighbors or even current welfare recipients.

"Clients are famous for ratting on other clients," Kirkpatrick said. "It's usually in defense of their own status. 'If you think what I'm doing is bad, how about ...'" motioning as if pointing to another person.

The screening process generally catches people coming into the county just looking for an easy way to get on public assistance, she said.

"People don't find it that easy to just come in and get on assistance in our department," Kirkpatrick said. "If they need help, we're going to help them, but they're going to have to do what they need to do to complete the program."

Which usually means looking for work, getting job-placement assistance, applying for job training and working to get off of public aid.

Contrary to what some may think or wish, evidence of drug abuse doesn't disqualify a person for public assistance, but all applicants are screened for substance abuse. If abuse is suspected, the person is referred to GCASA.

From time to time, a person makes it through the screening process when they shouldn't -- or gets on public assistance and then later starts earning money not originally reported.

For example, a person might start a new business and not report the income.

It's amazing, Kirkpatrick said, what a good Google search might find about a person's attempts to earn disqualifying income. Investigators also check Facebook and Twitter.

And even comments left on The Batavian -- and there have been examples, Kirkpatrick told legislators, of DSS recipients leaving comments on The Batavian that have led to investigations.

One gentleman on assistance set up a web page for his home business, complete with numerous pictures of his work, and was earning a good living making an undisclosed item. When his entreprenuerism was discovered, DSS shut off his assistance.

When a suspected case of fraud is found, assistance is terminated, but recipients have a right to appeal. During the appeal process, payments continue.

While all tips are welcome -- Kirkpatrick reiterated near the end of the meeting -- that just because a woman's millionaire boyfriend moves in, doesn't mean she is no longer eligible for medicaid. That's not fraud, she said. She could even continue to get food stamps if the boyfriend swore he bought and cooked his own food.

It's also not fraud to fail to comply with DSS rules. Rules violations could jeopardize benefits, but is not considered fraud.

Fraud is an intentional attempt to obtain benefits to which the recipient is not entitled, Kirkpatrick said.

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