AUSTIN - The Texas Health and Human Services System plans to close 56 offices throughout the state in an effort to consolidate operations that will not result in job loss.
Five of the offices are in Northeast Texas, including two in Hunt County, impacting 25 employees and dozens more low income customers.
Those who receive assistance from Medicaid, food benefits, and temporary cash assistance programs in the cities of Commerce, Quinlan, Emory, Sulphur Springs and Paris will soon have to travel somewhere else to get those benefits.
Stephanie Goodman is a spokesperson with the Texas Health and Human Services System, which includes five state agencies.
“Those 56 offices – some of them house workers from one office some may house workers from multiple offices,” Goodman says. “They tend to fall into two categories. They’re either very small offices or they’re offices that are located really close to another offices. We actually have one I think that the staff are moving a mile and a half away.”
She says the agency has notified all staff of the changes and customers will be notified as the date for consolidation nears. Office closings will take place over the next 18 months, with four of the five local office closings taking place in late August and early September.
The closings will result in $11 million in savings in leases and related costs over five years starting in fiscal year 2013.
The consolidation will not end the employment of the 264 workers at the 56 locations, but does mean they’ll have to move to another office nearby.
According to Goodman, the state agency feels pretty lucky coming out of last year’s legislative session by being able to maintain their frontline staffing for these services.
“Most of these offices are what we call eligibility determination, which means they’re the staff who help determine if someone qualified for Medicaid or SNAP food benefits or cash assistance,” Goodman said. “So while we could keep all those staff, we did have to generate some administrative savings.”
She notes the agency understands sometimes it’s hard for people to travel, especially in small communities. To better accommodate customers, HHS has developed an online application or citizens can call 2-1-1 for assistance.
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