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Money Saved In Jefferson Co. Benefits Center Closure Could Go Toward More DCF Training

Florida Department of Children and Families

In the next couple of weeks, a service center that helps people apply for benefits in Jefferson County will close its doors. It’s a cost-saving measure by Florida’s child welfare agency.

In the last year, Florida’s Department of Children and Families has closed a half a dozen county ACCESS service centers across the state—facilities where residents can apply for benefits, including Medicaid and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. In total, that’s saved the state about 3.5 million dollars. Agency spokeswoman Jennifer Hartshorne says computer technology is allowing her agency to close the Jefferson County office.

“More than 95-percent off applicants for public benefits apply online now. And, in the case of this Jefferson County service center, we determined we could still serve those clients adequately at the same time we’re going to be able to save $38,000.”

She says that money will be diverted to other areas, such as training child protective investigators. That’s been DCF’s main focus since the recent spate of child deaths.

“In the past two years, we’ve saved more than $4.5 million dollars by closing smaller offices such as this and we’re able to re-invest that money into frontline services that will better help Floridians,” added Hartshorne.

Hartshorne says eight employees work in the soon-to-be-closed facility, and they’ll keep their jobs by staying in touch with the agency by phone. One employee will still be on hand each Monday at the Monticello Public Library for those who need help in person. The facility is expected to close September 27th.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.