Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services attribute difficulty reaching them to end of COVID-related assistance

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:16 PM EST
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CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s a complaint the 19 News tipline gets often.

People in Cuyahoga County can’t get the help they need with their food stamps.

They say it’s a phone issue, sometimes waiting hours to get in touch with Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services.

Jessica Robinson lost her food stamps months ago after she couldn’t reach the Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services Office for her six month review.

She’s called several days a week since, sometimes waiting on the phone for more than five hours.

“I would wake up at 8 o’clock to try to be the first person or whatever and I would stay on the phone for like, eight hours,” said Robinson.

She’s not alone.

Over the last three months, we’ve gotten several calls into our 19 tipline about the same issue.

These people asked the 19 Troubleshooters to investigate, so we did.

After making a visit to the building, we got in touch with Director of the Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services, Kevin Gowan.

“We apologize for the delays but the reality is the work has nearly doubled over the past three months,” said Gowan.

He acknowledged, yes, people are having trouble getting ahold of them, but there’s a good reason why.

Back in July, the state began rolling back pandemic-related emergency food assistance.

That led to more restrictive policies and more requirements.

It also means beginning March first, Cuyahoga County residents who receive SNAP benefits will see a reduction in the total amount received each month.

Gowan says those who didn’t fill out the necessary paperwork lost their benefits in September, virtually doubling the work for benefit call centers, like Cuyahoga County’s.

He says they’re working on hiring more staff, but it takes time to train and onboard employees.

So what can those who still qualify for food stamps do in the mean time?

“There’s an option when you start the call to receive a call back,” said Gowan.

Gowan recommends choosing the virtual hold option and using the self service portal to complete as much information there as they can.

The options seem limited, but they may be the only ones people have in a time when covid-related assistance is coming to an end.