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UPE News Item

 

With Latest Moves Department of Human Assistance Turns its Back on Workers and Southside Clients  

 

The Department of Human Assistance (DHA) initiated a number of significant changes that will forever alter how and where DHA delivers services.  First, DHA determined their budget could no longer sustain operating the Employment Services Bureau at 4990 Stockton Blvd.  As a result, the building will close in mid-May and staff will be distributed throughout the County.  This will mean a change in the delivery of employment services as workers will no longer be centered in one location but spread throughout the County. 

 

Unfortunately, the method of closure appeared designed to provide the greatest amount of stress and disruption for employees.  First, the department announced in December they were going to close the building by June.  At that time, UPE notified the Department we were prepared to meet over their movement plan.  Unfortunately, the Department was not prepared to meet.  They had no plan.  In January, February, and March, UPE notified the Department we were ready to meet over the closure of Stockton Blvd.  Each time the Department made it clear they could not meet because they did not know where the workers would be sent.  Then the County realized they had to provide workers two pay-periods of notice before they could be moved.  Suddenly the County had a plan.  Workers would be dispersed across the County with the department retaining some in the South at Lemon Hill and Los Rios College.  Then the County met with UPE to explain its plan. 

 

UPE met with the County in an attempt to lesson the impact on our members ensuring schedules and time off requests would be honored at the new locations.  Two days later, UPE learned the County could not move to Lemon Hill or Los Rios College.  The Lemon Hill site could not support additional workers on its computer network and Los Rios College gave away the space DHA intended to use.  It is very clear the County never thought through its plan to close Stockton Blvd and relocate staff before notifying the landlord they would not renew the lease.   The entire process was needlessly rushed and the workers were the ones that suffered.  They had to wait months for the Department to develop their plan and then they were jerked about as the Department changed the plan on the fly. 

 

At the same time, DHA is moving forward with Phase II of the Service Delivery Redesign which entails closing the lobby at the Bowling Green office (located on Florin Rd) and converting the entire Bureau into a CalWORKs continuing call-center.  The goal of this change is to improve the response time for CalWORKs continuing cases.  The Department believes there are a number of clients whose phone calls go unreturned.  However, they do not have any data on how many calls go unanswered.  At the same time, DHA believes the change will reduce the number of people who enter the lobby by allowing clients the option of completing a number of continuing functions over the phone.  However, the Department could not present any evidence of a reduction in Medi-Cal or Cal-Fresh clients entering lobbies as a result of the creation of the Medi-Cal Service Center.   

 

There are some things that are crystal clear.  Anyone seeking help with CalWORKS will need to go to Susie Gaines Mitchell, already one of the County’s busiest bureaus.  Continuing workers will no longer have an opportunity to see clients face-to-face.  Instead, they will contact business via tasks and the phones.  The Department that preaches customer service has turned its backs on its own ‘internal customers’.  Workers and their clients are being reduced to numbers.  Your client is not a family in need, but a call in the queue.  Instead of a mother in search of an EBT card, you have a task number, computer screens, and more phone calls. 

Much like the botched closing of Stockton Blvd, SDR Phase II is a mess of DHA’s own creation.  No law is mandating this change.  Someone got the idea that things needed to change, so change is coming.  UPE is doing all it can to mitigate the impact of these changes on our workers and throughout the meet and confer process we have made proposals to the County designed to help our workers.  UPE will continue to meet with the County after the implementation of Phase II in order to hold them accountable.  As these changes occur please notify UPE of problems and questions.

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