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Social Services report: Money goes into community

By Rebecca Rider
rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — If there’s one thing Donna Fayko, director of the Rowan County Department of Social Services (DSS), wants people to take away from the past year is the many ways in which their tax dollars have helped those in their community.

“The people of Rowan County are proud and hard working, and they take a lot of pride in their community,” she said.

There’s often a perception that those who seek services from DSS — particularly those seeking Work First benefits (previously welfare) — are lazy, unwilling to get a job or illegal immigrants. But Fayko said that’s a false perception.

“That’s simply not the case here in Rowan County,” she said.

The majority of families receiving Work First benefits in the 2016 fiscal year in Rowan County were actually grandparents who had guardianship of their grandchildren. And at $554,609 spent in 2015-16, Work First makes up only a small portion of DSS’s $240 million budget. Recipients received an average monthly payment of $174.

According to its annual report, approximately 54,514 Rowan County residents received Medicaid, food and nutrition or Work First benefits in the 2016 fiscal year. However, some of that number may have been eligible for more than one service.

In 2015-16, the largest expenditures in Rowan County were on Medicaid and food and nutrition benefits, according to DSS’s annual report. Rowan County citizens received $182.3 million in Medicaid and $35.6 million in food in nutrition in the 2016 fiscal year.

But Fayko said something people don’t realize is that the money doesn’t then vanish, or leave the county.

“The money that goes out to our citizens then comes back to positively benefit our community,” she said.

When people receive Medicaid, the majority will use services within Rowan County. When people receive food and nutrition, most of those benefits will be spent at local grocery stores.

“Their tax dollars are serving their community members,” Fayko said.

DSS estimated that approximately $240.1 million in services made its way back into the local economy in the 2016 fiscal year.

This year, DSS saw an increase in those needing food and nutrition services, with an average of 24,854 recipients in 2015-16, compared to 23,345 in 2014-15. Fayko said DSS often sees increases when people move into Rowan County, or if there are any large job losses such as the Freightliner cuts that occurred in early 2016.

“Anytime there’s a layoff, it impacts,” she said.

An average of 11,951 households received food and nutrition services, according to the report, and DSS saw an average of 805 new applications each month.

Approximately 29,358 Rowan County residents were authorized for Medicaid per month in 2015-16. The bulk of Medicaid assistance, $76.6 million, was provided to those categorized as disabled or blind. Families and children were the next most common group to benefit, receiving $63.1 million in aid.

DSS was also able to collect $52,957 from its One Church, One Child outreach — a network of nearly 65 congregations countywide. The money is used to provide beds, clothing and other items for children in need of protective services. The funds also go to purchasing needed household items so that children will be able to stay in their homes and have their needs met.

“And I think that’s something to be proud of,” Fayko said.

Additionally DSS:

  • Collected $10.8 million in child support.
  • Provided $3.9 million in child day care subsidies.
  • Gave $2.8 million in foster care and adoption assistance.
  • Provided $1.6 million in special assistance for adult care homes.
  • Provided $1.1 million for energy and crisis assistance.
  • Saw an increase in children leaving foster care custody and a decrease of children entering. Approximately 78 children left foster care in Rowan County in 2015-16, while only 59 entered it.
  • DSS received 2,587 reports of abuse, neglect or dependency and accepted 1,808 reports for assessment.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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