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DFCS employees frustrated amid burnout, suspension of temporary pay supplements

Last year, eligible staff started receiving $240 more per pay period. According to the state, the funding is now used up and cannot be extended.

ATLANTA — Three employees with Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) are expressing concerns about a pay supplement that has dried out. They say it's bad timing and a source of more frustration.

Two months ago, 11Alive first reported on staffing issues there. Since then, more employees have reached out to say issues like low morale and low pay continue.

All three employees say that despite what DFCS had to say to 11Alive back in December - including that they were working on hiring more people - things have gotten worse.

"It's exactly the same, if not more," one of them said, asking to remain anonymous. Other employees said the workload is still a burden.

RELATED: DFCS worker speaks out citing employees are overworked and burned out

"Nothing has changed," another added. "We're still very much so behind caseloads, or way beyond where they should be per case manager, and the culture is still very toxic."

Workers who contacted 11Alive said their paychecks are now shrinking, too.

Last year, eligible staff started receiving $240 more per pay period. This was a pay bump funded by the Federal American Rescue Plan Act as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the state, the funding is now used up and cannot be extended.

Employees said they learned the pay bump was ending two days before Christmas.

"You come in, you're not paid a lot of money," an employee said. "The workload is heavy, they expect for everybody to be a robot."

In December, DHS told 11Alive it was holding hiring events to address understaffing. According to the state, DFCS support staff turnover has decreased by 4.5% from a year ago.

One worker confirmed hires were made but doesn't believe it will matter.

"I can assure you 50% to 75% of them will resign," she said. "Training is four months long. So they are coming in and they really have not technically started their training."

DHS released a statement to 11Alive that read in part, "DHS also had a time and labor study completed in 2022 to ensure that we are optimizing staff tasks and time with system efficiencies."

An employee said that the labor study isn't practical in the wake of the workload.

"You can't allow the same amount of time for a one or two-person household that you can allot for a six or seven-person household." 

DHS adds that in Georgia, interviews are not required or are waived to approve people for certain benefits in an attempt to cut down on worker's tasks.  

"Supervisors work to assign caseloads to staff based on overall caseloads and tasks. Georgia currently has an interview waiver for SNAP, and interviews are not required for Medicaid. With our SNAP interview waiver, Georgia still has to complete some interviews as necessary (we are interviewing expedited cases) but the state is utilizing available flexibilities while we work to aggressively hire additional caseworkers," DHS said in a statement.

State officials believe those waivers and increasing staff could lead to a decrease in workloads.

Gov. Brian Kemp recently announced he is proposing to boost state employee pay by $2,000

The three employees who spoke hope to see that money, but also want more time to assist families, and more transparency.

"You just really feel alone in this fight," a staff member said.

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