Knabe wants to reduce fraud in county relief program

LOS ANGELES - A motion by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe this week calls for specific recommendations for restructuring the county's General Relief program to reduce fraud and direct resources to those most in need.The motion comes as the county has seen its caseload nearly double since January 2007. General Relief is a state-mandated program that requires counties to provide assistance to indigent adults who do not qualify for other benefits. Los Angeles County accounts for nearly 70 percent of the total statewide population receiving benefits. In 2010 and 2011, on motions from Knabe, the county began restructuring the program, with a focus on strengthening efforts to assist participants with accessing one of the two paths off of the program - employment or disability. During the review process, officials learned that nearly 1/3 of assistance payments were being made to people who were not pursuing either path, requirements for participation in the program. "During these tough times, we have seen the caseload for General Relief rise dramatically, with an alarming cost to the County," Knabe said in a statement. "On top of these already sizeable demands on our system, the economic crisis has increased the number of people needing our services, due to a foreclosure or job loss. Many families are using County services for the first time, desperate for help. "As a result, we have been more aggressive about ensuring that scarce taxpayer resources are properly used to aid those most in need and the results to date have been very positive," Knabe continued. "But we cannot ignore the fact that a huge number of program participants are not playing by the rules. That simply isn't fair to those who are actively seeking employment or moving onto disability." Earlier this year, county officials developed a menu of options to reduce costs for administering the program, including verification of residency, increased case management and strengthening the sanction policy when program participants refuse or fail to comply with program requirements.

********** Published: October 20, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 27