OAKLAND, Calif. — How many Alameda County Social Services Agency workers does it take to feed a person, or to resolve a problem with food benefits? Evidently more than eight, based on my recent experience. Because despite all the cc's shown on the e-mail response by Shress Moten, a program manager, not one of the people noticed her own statements seem to show I owe the county more than the $841 it has already trumped up as my debt.
Furthermore, Alameda County Social Services Agency is now trying to extort money from me based on a convoluted system that has even their own workers disagreeing about the process.
Get this: at the urging of friends, I went to this agency - friends said it'd be able to help - in October 2012. Subsequently, the county sent documents dated Oct. 17, 2012, showing my wages warranted a benefit of $109 each month.
Then, in two documents dated the same date - Jan. 12, 2013 - the county states in one document that: "Effective 2/01/2013, your Food Stamp benefits are changed from $104.00 to $163.00 each month." The other document states the benefit for January was $115 and for February it would be $163.00.
Interesting, not one of the documents agreed on what the actual benefit was/is/should be.
Then, in April this year, the benefits were stopped because the required documentation - a quarterly report showing what was earned for a particular month - hadn't been received, despite being sent. Telephone calls - weekly - to the D. Morgan, the worker assigned to my case, went unanswered for weeks, despite workers there telling me that they are required to return calls within 24 hours.
It took until the end of May to get the benefits restored - but this was after calling higher ups and sending emails to them explaining the problem.
Suddenly, the reason the benefits were stopped was that proof of termination of work with a temp agency hadn't been received (the temp work ended in November 2012; temp agency has a Web site where this info is available for bank loan officers, social service workers, etc.). Unfortunately, despite the fact that Alameda County Social Services Agency engages in social service work - and has been at least since the 1950s - not one of the workers involved in my situation knew this.
After getting the run-around about the termination notice for employment, the worker - D. Morgan - sent a notice dated 05/16/2013 stating: "We have determined that you are eligible to [sic] additional Food Stamp benefits." Then, in notices dated July 18 and July 30, respectively, she states the benefits stopped because I "did not provide all of the necessary verifications," then she changes to: "We have received the information we needed. Your Food Stamp Benefits will continue unchanged."
Now, Ms. Moten claims I owe money for January, February, March ($441) benefits despite those months having income below the $1211 salary limit, and the same for July and August ($400), despite the income for those months being below the limit.
Using the appeal process resulted in two conflicting answers: the first person stated I owed nothing for January, February and March and that she'd get back with me for income proof for July and August. I've never heard from this person again. The second person claimed I owed all of it, despite being asked why the county sent documents increasing benefits based on income figures.
Ms. Moten's answer - by email - shows I probably should owe for May, too, since my gross salary for the month of May was $1659, the month that was used to "estimate" July and August benefits; however, nothing is mentioned about June benefits.
As of this writing, I am awaiting another "appeals" hearing - which is a joke. It is not a hearing; processes described there also are not followed, i.e., supposedly I was to be given a "position statement" to read, which I never was. And, as stated, the person who handled my first appeal has never gotten back with me.
So, if ever a government should shut down, the Alameda County Social Services Agency should. It should shut its doors and start over, because it is doing a great disservice to the poor. Because not one person provides the same answer to the same question - and because workers are allowed to trump up debt on poor people merely out of retaliation for being reported for not doing their jobs.
Government bureaucracy at its worst.