For Immediate ReleaseJune 04, 2013
The Marin County Board of Supervisors emerged from a closed session today and announced a settlement in a lawsuit between the Public Interest Law Project and Marin County’s General Assistance program, which provides temporary monthly loans to qualified adults with no dependent children.
The suit was introduced in January 2011 by the Oakland-based Public Interest Law Project, which provides legal assistance to lower-income clients. The allegations pertained to client eligibility and program process issues. Per the agreement terms, the General Assistance program guidelines and process will be refined.
Two clients represented by the litigants will receive settlements of approximately $4,600 each, and the issue of legal fees will be presented before Marin County Superior Court Judge Paul Haakenson within 120 days of the settlement agreement.
“It was in our best interest to put this litigation behind us as long as the improvements incorporated into the settlement were consistent with program’s mission. We believe that is the case,” said Heather Ravani, the County’s Assistant Director of Health and Human Services. “We concur with the recommended improvements, and now we’d like to get back to focusing on providing great service to the community.”
The mission of the state-mandated General Assistance program is to provide services to enhance a client’s ability to become self-sufficient. The County offers workshops at the Marin Employment Connection geared toward professional development and support with the job-seeking process. Applicants can receive face-to-face interaction with staff on a daily basis and, on average, wait only five days for an intake appointment.
Ravani said Marin provides a maximum general assistance grant of $387 per individual per month, the highest grant amount in California. Marin is one of the only Bay Area counties that does not deduct a monthly health care payment or use vouchers in place of a check. The program not only helps people get jobs but helps with the daunting application process for Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides benefits to disabled adults and children with limited resources. The complicated federal SSI application often discourages people who may be eligible, so County staff guides clients through both the application and hearing process.
The general assistance program also partners with several community organizations to extend client services. One of these includes a recent pilot project with Ritter Center, a San Rafael-based nonprofit, to expedite the SSI application process for homeless or precariously-housed individuals. A reported 90 percent of participants were approved for SSI within a few weeks of their reviews.
“The professionalism and thoughtful support with which they assess and evaluate each client has been very impressive,” said Cia Byrnes, manager of the Ritter Center’s health clinic. “Each eligibility worker puts great thought and attention to ensuring that the clients are connected to the necessary services that will get them back into the workforce while being a mindful steward of the County resources. It's a delicate balancing act, and they do a terrific job with a very difficult task.”
Jose Luis Gomez is a drug/alcohol assessor with the Bay Area Community Resources, another community partner with the County’s GA program. He has worked with the program for three years and said he has been impressed.
“Through these years I had the necessary support and understanding of the case workers and administration to perform my duties,” he said. “The level of communication of the workers and their dedication to their client’s well-being is outstanding. It is also important to mention that the collaboration between the GA and all other agencies involved in the care of the GA clients is extremely good. I am very happy providing this service for GA and hope to continue doing so in the future.”
Marin ranks among the top 25 percent of counties in terms of the total amount of general assistance aid distributed and the amount of cash given directly to clients. It also ranks well on the amount of assistance distributed as a percent of the population and on the amount of people in poverty receiving GA funds.
For more information on the general assistance program, click here.
Racy MingDirector, Workforce Investment Board of MarinHealth and Human Services
120 N. Redwood Dr.San Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-3334Email: Racy MingMarin Employment website