Leaders push for details on plan for backlogged Richmond Social Services

Richmond social services workers beg for help amid staffing woes, high caseloads: 'Why can't we be heard?'
Posted at 5:25 PM, May 26, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. — People who rely on Richmond’s Department of Social Services for food and health insurance said they are frustrated with the agency they say is behind on processing and delivering benefits.

Last week, officials with the Virginia Department of Social Services said they had a specialized plan with the Richmond agency that would address the locality's major backlog of cases.

They said the plan goes beyond the type of support that the state provides to any other locality in Virginia. However, no one has seen the plan yet, including state delegate Dawn Adams, who represents Richmond.

"What we were told was that there was some private conversation where Richmond in particular was getting special treatment to get out of this hole,” Adams said. “And yet, there were no details provided. And I don't know of anybody who has those details. So it'd be great if those were shared."

Richmond Department of Social Services

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Reporter Tyler Layne has been asking Virginia Social Services and Richmond Social Services to provide a copy of the plan, but he still had not received it as of Thursday evening.

State leaders met with the city after seeing Layne’s previous reporting. Additionally, the state has given Richmond additional staff support because the city is short-staffed and overwhelmed with cases. As a result, the agency is failing to meet state and federal standards for the timely processing of SNAP and Medicaid applications.

Reporter Tyler Layne and healthcare advocate Latisha Carson

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Richmond City Councilman Mike Jones said that means families are being left hungry.

He also said the council is being left in the dark because the administration has not been transparent about how the problems are being addressed.

A spokesperson for Richmond Social Services did say Thursday that the state is assisting with recruitment, training and responding to client calls.

"Planning is still underway as we explore what can be provided by VDSS and what is required to be administered locally based on Virginia laws," officials said.

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