State to close 31 welfare-assistance offices
The jobs of 232 state workers would be eliminated under a cost-cutting proposal that advocates for the poor worry would reduce access to food stamps, cash assistance and medical benefits.
The Department of Human Services confirmed Thursday that its plan to close 31 welfare eligibility locations statewide would result in the loss of the positions.
Two large processing centers, one in Honolulu and another in Hilo, would be created to handle the work previously done in the local offices.
“It is true that applicants and ongoing clients will not be seen in person at the proposed two ... processing centers and they will be encouraged to make contact by phone, fax, mail or online,” Human Services Director Lillian Koller wrote in a letter dated Tuesday to the Hawaii Government Employees Association.
“However, for residents who are unable or unwilling to make contact by one of these methods, they will still be able to apply in person at other remaining DHS offices on every island at many community agencies,” she wrote.
But state Rep. John Mizuno argued that the job losses would diminish quality of services provided to more than 66,000 residents.
Some are too poor to afford phones, and others will need critical face-to-face help when they can’t wait a month for their claims to be processed, said Mizuno, D-30th (Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter), chairman of the House Human Services Committee.