Human Services Committee hears benefit proposal, Welfare To Work update

MAYVILLE – Chau-tauqua County may soon be joining counties across the state by establishing residency requirements in order to receive welfare benefits.

Jay Gould and John Runkle, members of the County Legislature, presented it to the Human Services Committee Wednesday.

“A lot of counties have been doing this,” said Gould, R-Ashville. “If it comes up to vote in the legislature, we’d like them to vote for residency requirements.”

Christine Schuyler, commissioner of social services and public health director explained the complexities of case-by-case scenarios involved with applications for benefits.

“There are so many exceptions,” Schuyler said. “The devil is in the details.”

She said she sees more than 700 applications per month for public assistance with 20 of them coming from out of state.

The conflict of the proposal Wednesday night was the debate over the state’s requirements for residency in order to receive benefits. In certain cases, situations, such as emergencies and domestic abuse, allow applicants to receive assistance.

“We should table this resolution to make sure the wording and exceptions are correct,” said Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point. “If we bring it back in December, it’ll give us a little time to work on the executive wording.”

“It’s not a law, it’s a request,” Gould said.

Schuyler also provided an update on the county’s Welfare To Work program which, according to NY.gov, “is responsible for promoting greater self-sufficiency of the state’s welfare and low-income households through the delivery of training, employment and post-employment activities, programs and services.”

Chautauqua County Social Services came under fire from the legislature for low participation levels in the past few years.

“If we don’t have work sites and we don’t have employers, then that’s hard to get people to work, and we’ve have had up to 1,600 people who are in this program. That’s a lot of jobs to try and come by in Chautauqua County, no matter who you are,” Schuyler said at a 2012 legislature meeting.

“We were tarred and feathered,” Schuyler said Wednesday, noting that she and her team have put in extra effort to bring participation numbers up.

As of this past August, Chautauqua County placed 24th out of 57 counties in terms of participation.

“I’d like to say publicly, I know how hard you and your staff have been working,” said Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown.

“We want to try and get everyone self-sufficient,” Schuyler concluded.