New welfare enrollees will have to wait for benefit approvals
By Graig Graziosi
Mahoning County residents planning on enrolling for welfare benefits for the first time will have to wait until after Aug. 28 for approval.
The Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services will be unable to approve new enrollees for benefits such as Medicaid, food and cash assistance beginning Thursday as part of a statewide update to benefit-enrollment software.
MCDJFS administrator Gwen Graves said individuals receiving benefits will see no interruption to their normal service, though the MCDJFS will be unable to approve new enrollees, make changes or access client files or answer questions through their call center during the software update.
“If you’ve never received assistance before, even if you want an electronic card it will take five to seven days to get. But we aren’t turning anyone away,” Graves said. “If they come in, we’re taking paper applications and we’ll hold onto that information until the following week.”
The department will be fully operational by noon Aug. 29.
Though the shutdown will only last a few days, the impact will be felt by the department’s clients.
“We usually have four people working the windows at the office, and each of them will see between 70 and 80 people each day,” Graves said. “Some people are looking to enroll, others have updates or questions, but it’s a significant number.”
The software upgrade will centralize Medicaid, cash assistance and food-assistance enrollment onto one system, the Ohio Eligibility Benefits System. Food and cash-assistance programs are enrolled through a separate system.
“For us, it changes how we process our work. Right now, we’re in two systems,” Graves said. “Now it’ll be better for us since it’s centralized in one system.”
While the new system will help streamline the work for the MCDJFS employees, Graves warned that the new system might initially slow down their intakes.
“It’ll take some time for us to learn, so we’re going to have to decrease how many cases we intake a day until our staff [learns] the system,” Graves said.