Erie County Social Services, UB School of Social Work, community organizations collaborate to link residents with HEAP, other services; more residents encouraged to use community sites for applications
The Erie County Department of Social Services is already seeing success in a new partnership with the University at Buffalo School of Social Work and community organizations designed to make it easier for county residents to access Social Services programs. The partnership, which began in early November, resulted in the development of community locations throughout Erie County, where residents can get help in applying for an array of programs from University at Buffalo social work graduate student interns.
Thanks to these on-site assistants, more than 100 families have already accessed these services, primarily the Home Energy Assistance Program ("HEAP").
"As I stated in my 'Initiatives for a Stronger Community,' it is not good enough for Erie County to provide services if they are not available where and when they are needed. Many Erie County residents are eligible for critical programs administered by the county, but are unable to take advantage of it due to transportation issues," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. "This partnership with the University at Buffalo makes services that were previously out of reach for many county residents available in a nearby library, community center or human service agency.
"There's no need to drive downtown when help is available at your local gathering spot, so I am encouraging residents to use these services."
The graduate student interns are able to directly assist qualified residents in applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP"), HEAP or low-income child care assistance. Certain residents may have to be interviewed over the phone by a Social Services employee at a later date. The interns are also knowledgeable about other programs available within the community, such as weatherization or other housing programs, and will be able to link residents with services that address their specific needs.
Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger said, "The Erie County Department of Social Services and New York state have been working hard to allow residents the ability to apply online for public benefit programs. However, many residents are not computer literate or find the application process too difficult and intimidating. Thanks to this program, in November and December alone, we were able to help over 100 families connect to the help that they needed.
"The graduate student interns are able to facilitate the online application process for the resident while also identifying other programs the resident should access."
Graduate student interns will be available at the following locations, days and times:
For more information on the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/.