Public health to assume general assistance office duties

The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors has approved a proposal to staff the county's General Assistance office following the departure of administrator Sonia Jackson on July 8.
The Montgomery County General Assistance office helps clients assess their needs, does client referrals and coordinates with other community resources. The General Assistance office works closely with local organizations to insure non-duplication of services and to maximize resources for resolving local poverty issues.
Programs offered through Montgomery County General Assistance include emergency rent and utility assistance, emergency food assistance (works with local food pantries) and burial assistance for indigent clients. General Assistance also provides protective payee services through Social Security and notary services. They also have available applications for Southern Iowa Regional Housing Authority (SIRHA) and rent reimbursement claims.
Montgomery County Supervisor Donna Robinson said the Montgomery County Public Health office has agreed to take over the duties of that office, some of which are very important. MCPH administrator Samantha Beeson outlined some of the more important needs of the position that needed to be immediately handled.
“Sonia was the payee for the county for people taking part in State Supplementary Assistance, so there is a great need to get someone other than Sonia on the checking account of all these people so their bills can be paid and they can still get their money. If we don't have anyone lined up, then everything will be frozen until someone is assigned to be the payee,” Beeson said.
Beeson said Crystal Berkey, who currently works for MCPH as a clerk, was being suggested as the designee for the general assistance administrator position, and compensated in a way similar to Dan Wright, who serves as maintenance supervisor and the county sanitarian.
“In that case, whatever hours he works as a sanitarian comes out of that budget, and the rest of his salary comes out of maintenance, so in this case, Berkey's work as administrator for General Assistance would be compensated from that budget and her MCPH hours out of our budget. That seemed to be the easiest way to keep the duties separated and will also show what money out of each budget is being spend on public health duties and general assistance duties,” Beeson explained.
The Montgomery County Public Health Board approved the proposal, and it just needed approval from the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors in order to proceed. Beeson added that the arrangement was not set in stone, and could be modified later at the county’s request.
“We can sit down in August or September and see how it’s going and what needs to be modified. I'm certainly open to suggestions,” commented Beeson.
Robinson said it was important to note that the proposal was not intended to undermine the importance of the administrator position.
“We're not making light of things or suggesting it’s not important by not refilling it with a dedicated employee. We're working to absorb it a little bit as a cost savings to the county, but it will not be any less important to the people who are getting help from the department, and they will continue to get any and all assistance that they have gotten in the past,” stated Robinson.
Additionally, Robinson wanted to express her appreciation to Jackson for her dedicated service to the county.
“Sonia has served more than 20 years in this position, and she’s done a really good job with it over the years, and I appreciate Samantha and her office stepping up to help the county moving forward,” Robinson said.
The supervisors unanimously approved a motion to assume the duties of the general assistance position as presented.

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