Chautauqua County’s Temporary Assistance Program continues to face challenges getting people back to work.
Diane Anderson, director of the county’s Certification — Temporary Assistance, spoke recently to the legislature’s Human Services Committee to discuss the program.
According to the county’s website, the county’s Temporary Assistance Program gives short-term help to families and individuals as they work toward self-sufficiency. Individuals who are unable to work, can’t find a job, or have a job that does not pay enough to meet their basic needs, temporary assistance — using federal and state programs — may be able to help them pay expenses.
Eligibility for family assistance and safety net assistance is determined based on income and resources.
During the committee meeting, Anderson noted that a decade ago, New York state’s work participation rate was 34.2% and Chautauqua County’s was 10%. Today, the state participation rate has fallen to 10.8% and 5.7% for the county.
“We’ve been working to increase that rate and had some success until COVID,” Anderson said. “Since then I think it’s been a struggle for everyone across the state to get people re-engaged after almost two and a half years of people not being in work activities.”
Conciliation notes are sent out when the county discovers someone is not participating in work activities to the maximum to the required number of hours.
For job readiness, Anderson said one of the challenges is they don’t have Spanish speaking staff to run the program. “We’re working on this to get it resolved soon,” she said.
Anderson believes there are employment opportunities in the county. “There are a lot of jobs available, just not a lot of people that are willing to take the jobs at this moment,” she said.
Some of the reasons can be language barriers. She also said that people are citing mental health concerns.
County Legislator Dan Pavlock, R-Sinclairville, noted that drugs can be a problem for those looking for work.
“One thing you hear in the business world, especially in our county, is people not being able to pass a drug test to get a job, or once they know there is a drug test for a job they don’t show up for an interview,” he said.
Anderson said they do work with those who are struggling with chemical addiction. In January, there were 102 people referred for assessment for substance abuse assessment services, with 48% being a no show. Of the 53 that were assessed, 14 did not meet criteria for treatment, 24 were already engaged in treatment, and 15 were referred to start treatment.
Combining temporary assistance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and emergency assistance, Anderson said in January there were 1,604 applications submitted. She said about 30% were denied due to not people not complying with the program.
“Many times they don’t get the documentation in and don’t contact us for help — or they don’t go for the employment assessment or the drug and alcohol screening assessment,” she said.
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