DHHS has supported local DSS’s to promote teleworking

Published 7:50 pm Thursday, July 2, 2020

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By Brandy Basnight Mann

Tyrrell County DSS Director

On March 30, 2020, County Manager David Clegg sent a notice to all county department heads asking that each county agency determine ways to protect staff, as well as ongoing operations.  Tyrrell County Department of Social Services has been operating with two separate teams since April 1, 2020.  Each team rotates working from home and in the office every other day.  This has kept the agency operational during normal business hours but has allowed protection from a total agency quarantine.  Multiple staff members are able to remote in to their agency computer from home, as well as continuing to respond to clients’ needs when not in the office.  This would have not been possible without the support of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  DHHS oversees local DSS’s across the state and they recognized the risks with agencies continuing to work in the office at full staff.

With schools and senior centers closed and other mandated reporting entities non-operational, the agency has seen a decline in Adult and Child Protective Services reports.  DHHS has also temporarily supported teleconference visits instead of home visits for most programs.  The agency’s Adult Home Specialist, who investigates complaints against Tyrrell House Assisted Living, has been directed by DHHS to complete desk reviews instead of in-person visits when possible.  TCDSS has seen a decline in Medicaid Transportation, as well.  With doctor appointments and surgeries being cancelled, TCDSS went from one transportation worker overseeing close to 200 trips per month to as low as 60.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DHHS has been automatically extending all recertifications for Food and Nutrition Services, Medicaid, and Child Care.  What this means for Tyrrell County DSS is that the 900 cases managed by four Medicaid Workers, the 400 cases by the two Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Workers, and all of the Child Care cases for one worker are being temporarily automatically extended each month by DHHS.  DHHS is unsure if USDA will give NC the approval to do the same for July for FNS.

While DHHS has temporarily found ways to reduce the workload for local DSS’s, it will likely mean additional work soon.  Legislators have proposed Senate Bill 808, which would require local DSS’s to make efforts to redetermine Medicaid eligibility for cases that were automatically recertified during the pandemic and to request post eligibility verification for those cases.  All of this will be in addition to the normal workload.  It will also require local DSS’s to resume Medicaid eligibility re-determinations for cases due September 1, 2020.  In order to meet this timeline, TCDSS staff will need to resume processing Medicaid recertification cases as early as July.  While DHHS’s assistance to local DSS’s during the pandemic has been very helpful to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Senate Bill 808 will likely cause Tyrrell County DSS to experience an increase in workload in the near future.