WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County adding 54 social services jobs


An influx of overdue and unexpected state cash means Sonoma County government will soon be adding about 54 jobs in various welfare and aid programs.

The wave of hiring is a change for the county of late. Since the recession hit government coffers four years ago, the county has been focused more on shrinking its workforce or holding staff levels flat.

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. (PD File)

But the slow financial turnaround has recently unleashed some money due to the county for state and federally-funded programs administered at the local level. Those include services that assist and protect seniors and children, provide food stamps and oversee Medi-Cal and other health care programs for low income residents.

Last week county officials reported the cash influx was about $13.2 million, most of it state reimbursements to cover underfunding of programs during the recession. Some it was unanticipated money for services shifted from the state to counties in 2011. A smaller share of the sum was made up by federal funds.

About $8.2 million is ongoing funding the county expects to get in future years. The remaining $4.9 million is a one-time reimbursement.

County supervisors, long-weary of whittling away at department budgets and public services, welcomed the new money.

“We are in the rare position of adding back services that have been cut,” said Supervisor Mike McGuire.

The board on Tuesday tapped about $7.7 million to pay for the new jobs and related programs through June. The remainder of the money will be held over for future budgets, with $1.1 million carved out as a reserve against state or federal cuts down the road.

With efforts afoot to trim spending on county pensions and other ballooning costs, officials defended the new expenditures as vital for the county’s safety net.

“I’m so tired of people bad-mouthing government over these programs,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a vocal advocate for increased safety-net spending. “These are economic infusion programs.”

The new jobs include social worker, aid-eligibility, public guardian, employment counseling and clerical posts. All are within the county’s Human Services Department, the largest in county government, with a workforce of about 680 employees and a budget of $242 million, 88 percent of it from state and federal sources.

The boost in staffing will support several new or expanded department efforts focused on financial abuse of seniors, outreach to at-risk families and food stamp recipients and employment for foster youth.

County officials say the extra spending couldn’t come a moment too soon. The growth in aid, economic assistance and adult and child welfare caseloads since 2006 has outstripped state and federal funding by a margin of 50 percentage points.

“This is not a new issue. We’ve been dealing with it for years,” said Jerry Dunn, interim director of the county’s Human Services Department. He cited a 2009 statewide study of safety net funding that put Sonoma County’s shortfall at $19 million.

“I have to believe since that time that the gap has gotten bigger,” Dunn said. “It hasn’t gotten smaller.”

The county has trimmed the annual shortfall by a few percentage points with its own contributions to aid programs, but even that discretionary money has failed to keep up with skyrocketing need among low-income families and seniors.

Since 2006, the department has seen a 157 percent jump in food stamp applications and 30 percent increase in Medi-Cal recipients. Economic assistance caseloads overall have grown by 87 percent, outstripping the increase in state and federal funding by 54 percentage points, according to the county.

Over the past five years, cases in the county’s Adult and Aging division, which oversees adult welfare and elder abuse, have grown by 26 percent, outstripping state and federal funding growth by 18 percentage points.

The underfunding has translated to longer wait times for those applying for aid and less resources to tackle problems for at-risk seniors before they escalate to the level of abuse.

County officials stressed that they are still exceeding state and federal mandates. Those thresholds are far below the county’s own goals for filling unmet needs, they said.

“What we want to do is be more preventative in our response,” said Dunn, the Human Services director.

The Board of Supervisors spent a good part of its deliberation Tuesday arguing for a new appropriation to boost staffing at the county’s veterans service office. The office is mostly paid for through discretionary dollars out of the county general fund, and therefore saw its share of budget cuts in recent years.

Supervisor Valerie Brown earned unanimous support for her recommendation to shift some of the new, unrestricted state funds to pay for an additional claims worker, at a county cost of about $45,000 a year. The decision came hours after the board marked Veterans Day by honoring a group of local servicemen.

“Guys, we’re not walking our talk,” Brown said, lobbying her fellow board members for the new expenditure. “It has to be much more direct service.”

Dunn stopped short of saying the new jobs and bolstered programs marked a new outlook for spending on the county’s safety net. Further state and federal cuts are possible if not likely, he said.

He also responded head-on to critics of such spending.

“It’s not an increase in bureaucracy to provide enhanced services and faster response times to individuals in need,” he said in an interview. “That’s what a healthy, prosperous society does.”

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.

19 Responses to “Sonoma County adding 54 social services jobs”

  1. Frank says:

    Listen, these brain dead stupid visiors should be sent to Napa where they belong.

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  2. Hoctuey says:

    The sad truth of the matter is the best Mental Health care in the county of Sonoma; the safest, the most careing, the one with the least chance of harm coming to the patient or them walking away. Takes place not in the Norton Center were the emergency patients have been displaced by the transitional age youth. But in the County Jail. I would trust my life to those deputies and psychiatric staff over any other hospital setting at this point.
    We have to overcome the great stigma of Mental Illness. The law enforcement community is taking great strides to educate themselves and their organizations, not just to protect the lives of the public, but their own.
    There is considerable need for improvement in the attitudes of the general county workforce. Hiring people based on their ethnicity does not bring the best people into the workforce. Hiring people with no more than an AA degree does not create an educated dedicated workforce workforce. Bringing back retired person to full fill their old jobs does not change the culture of the workforce.
    We need to be asking ourselves “Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what can you do for your country” we need to return to that rare noble cause of the public good.

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  3. Accountable says:

    @Mockingbird – I am also college-educated. And, I deal with these college-educated, county workers. A person can graduate from college, with a degree in philosophy, and a GPA that is barely passing. I’d rather deal with an intelligent person without a college-degree, than an incompetent college-educated individual.

    I know about those hiring tests. My non-college-educated relative aced it. The fact that the employees feel that the tests are very difficult clearly shows me that Sonoma County is not getting the cream of the crop of the college-educated. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to them how to do their own jobs. I wouldn’t mind their salaries, if they were competent. But I deal with a significant number who are not.

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  4. Anthony Angry says:

    If anyone wants to know what John Pendergast has to say, you can just turn on Rush Limbaugh since he’s simply regurgitating what Limbaugh has been saying. The comment is almost verbatim of what that obese drug attic has been saying for past two weeks. How sad to have no original thoughts and just go with whatever a shock jock says.

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  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Snarky-nice, insulting public workers. Most workers in the county have college degrees, even many of the lower paying jobs. Shame on you. I’ll bet there isn’t even one worker that hasn’t graduated from high school. You probably aren’t aware that for many of those applying for county jobs there are quite difficult tests that they have to pass. Even the office assistant job’s test isn’t easy to pass. As for those eligibility worker jobs, the tests are difficult. The social workers have to graduate from college and some have to have masters. Guess you are wrong huh? Nothing new in that.

    The reason for the increase in workers (many to replace those that were laid off in the last 4 years) is to help people access healthcare. You know, the twin socialistic abominations of Obamacare and MediCal.

    I would say it’s more the schools’ fault and those like you who don’t want to fund education. Afterall, it’s a socialist idea educating our young for free.

    And Steve Guy-you are absolutely right. SEIU has been fighting the BOS over the 5.73 rank and file staff to each manager (5.73:1) but the BOS keeps saying that SEIU doesn’t negotiate for the managers. There is no guarantee that their perks like county paid deferred comp and car allowances will go away (there are low cost county cars available-no manager needs a car allowance that is pensionable-that’s why thye choose the car allowance over the county cars), that they will take the same income hits as the rank and file.

    In the last 10 years 567 rank and file jobs were eliminated and only THREE management jobs. 567:3. All those jobs lost to the community, decided by the managers who protected themselves. I’ll bet the ratio is smaller because the BOS keeps approving NEW management jobs. The article doesn’t say but I wondered when I read it how much of that money is going to managers instead of competent frontline employees.

    Bear-I’m amazed how selfish many christians have become. They certainly don’t practice Jesus’s teachings of giving, humility, and compassion for others.

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  6. John Pendergast says:

    I think Bear summarizes everything that’s wrong with the country, without even knowing it. People think government should play Santa Claus with other people’s money.

    This guy thinks that no one would give to the poor unless some civil servant pries it from his or her hand. I give thousands to the poor, but every time my taxes go up, it hamstrings me in that regard.

    People like Bear have a view of humanity that people are generally bad, that most people are nothing but scrooges that hoard money. It’s a sick, sad, miserable way of looking at the world. But that’s what liberalism is.

    Liberals pine away for a world where no one has to be good, no one has to take responsibility, and in the process strip us of our very charity towards each other. That’s not very christian. Government machinery is blind to real charity. It’s what caused Soviets to drink themselves to death in apartment blocks and throw themselves off of their balconies.

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  7. Snarky says:

    Just over HALF of San Francisco High School kids are NOT on track to graduate in year 2013.

    Oh, well. They can always get a government public employee position
    or join the foreign war military service of America.

    San Francisco Chronicle Online
    Jill Tucker
    Updated 10:49 p.m., Monday, November 19, 2012

    “1,900 In SF Class of ’14 May Not Graduate”

    Its called the IMPLOSION of America… happening right before your eyes.

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  8. bear says:

    So many Christians here!

    Since your churches and such do not meet the perfectly clear needs of the poor, you are entitled to vent BS?

    The county is making use of one-time-only funds to fill positions that have already been cut. Every one of the people hired will have a happier Christmas and spend money in your economy.

    Don’t see anyone here stepping up in any way to heal the wounds of the truly needy.

    Of course, in your book, no one is truly needy? Shame on you all.

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  9. Just Me says:

    @Follower, WELL SAID!

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  10. Snarky says:

    I wonder if social service workers assist victims of police criminality?

    Know anything about that, Grapevines?

    Two cops got caught on video in Southern California using an electric shock taser device upon a woman already in handcuffs…. AND LAUGHING AT HER. Then, the sadistic cop showed his “superman” shirt to his co-workers and they all laughed… caught on video. Being investigated right now.

    That female victim probably will need some government “social service” assistance, right?

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  11. Bipedial says:

    @ Angry

    Angry is right! We should offer some constructive criticism.

    I would suggest they return it to the tax payers. There are 180,000 parcels that paid taxes divided into 13.2 mil = about $75 a tax payer. I think that would be fair.

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  12. Anthony Angry says:

    @John Pendergast
    Have you ever had an original thought in your entire life? It is the role of government to collect funds for public programs. So, no, they won’t run out of “other people’s money.” BTW, are they supposed to spending their own money on public programs? How about constructive criticism and offer a solution or two, rather than mindlessly regurgitating platitudes?

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  13. Follower says:

    The voters have made their position perfectly clear. Such trivial things as Liberty or Justice will no longer be allowed to deter the imposition of “Fairness”.

    Your individual rights will no longer be allowed to stand in the way of “the good of society”.

    You WILL assimilate, resistance is futile.

    Plan “B” is no longer an option.
    Moving to another state will only delay the inevitable because the states still fighting to maintain independence will soon succumb to the wrath of the Federal Government.

    Arizona will welcome Illegal Immigrants or face litigation from Eric Holder’s “Department of Fairness”.

    Justice will become a quaint notion that will serve as a reminder to those who fell for the lies and deceit handed down by a group or rich, white slave owners once held on a pedestal as our Founding Fathers.

    We have turned a corner in America.

    The experiment has gone horribly wrong and nothing short of an absolute dictatorship will repair the damage done by centuries of oppression in the giuse of Freedom and Liberty.

    No longer will you be allowed to pursue such absurd notions as what was once known as “The American Dream”.

    Prosperity is now under sole ownership of the Ruling Class.

    A Ruling Class that you idiots keep re-electing.

    Have a nice day…

    Thumb up 31 Thumb down 5

  14. Frank says:

    County supervisors, long-weary of whittling away at department budgets and public services, welcomed the new money.

    Sonoma County adding 54 social services jobs

    cure for headache,
    place head between door and jamb,

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 7

  15. Jim says:

    The never ending expansion of government. When they overspend, they want more. When they get an “influx” they must spend it immediately.

    Sure, they can afford these positions now. But the new hires are lifetime expenses due to pensions and healthcare promises.

    Only a complete moron would pay more of their earned money to the government. If anyone would like tips on how to legally limit their tax exposure, let me know.

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  16. Grapevines says:

    54 social service jobs, but no monies to fix the roads. 12 days till after proposition 30 passes and promises to pump more tax dollars into the States general fund and the worthless legislature is so drunk on funds that they can’t wait to spend it.

    Anyone want to start a lottery on how long it’s going to be before we start hearing that the schools are short on funds again and we have to pony up more money for them?

    At first I suggested that they wouldn’t have the nerve to bring it up for at least a year but now, 54 positions, here, who knows how many across the state, we might even make it to March before the worthless legislature starts grumbling about running out of money for the schools. Sure am glad that we have shot ourselves in the foot and elected a super majority of idiots, morons, and clowns to attend to the running of the state.

    Thumb up 31 Thumb down 6

  17. Snarky says:

    The government really doesn’t have actual “jobs.”

    How about 54 new “do-nothing positions” where the public employees sit around and discuss “deploying” “services” in a “tactical” way ??

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 11

  18. Steveguy says:

    They need to get rid of 54 “managers” . Sonoma County is way out of whack for compensating do-nothing desk sitters as compared to efficient Government workers.

    Come on Social Workers, tell the truth ! Really

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 3

  19. John Pendergast says:

    One day they’ll run out of other people’s money.

    Thumb up 43 Thumb down 9

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