DHS Confirm Cuts
Molokai office to close.
The Department of Human Resources (DHS) held a legislative briefing last week in which director Lillian Koller confirmed the closure of 31 offices statewide and elimination of 232 positions. Molokai’s office will be among the cuts.
Neither DHS or its employees’ union, Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), could confirm when these closures will take place.
“Nothing is ever final until we have discussions with [HGEA],” said Toni Schwartz, communications officer for DHS.
Only two offices in the state, in Honolulu and Hilo, are slated to remain open. But Schwartz stressed it is the eligibility offices that will close – not all DHS offices. An eligibility office provides applications, renewal of applications, and maintenance services for about 66,000 public assistance recipients. The branch on Molokai is defined as an eligibility office, with four employees. Schwartz said she couldn’t comment on Molokai in particular, but many eligibility workers eliminated would be “repositioned” to other departments of DHS.
“If part of the union, [workers] have bumping rights, rights to be placed in other types of jobs,” she said.
In the briefing news release, DHS acknowledged “.Application workers also assist with applicants who do not speak English, may be suffering from a mental illness, and provide a font line of defense to stop welfare fraud.”
As a result of so many offices closing in locations statewide, recipients will have to rely on phone, fax and email assistance rather than face to face contact in their local office. Because of their increased phone, fax and email usage , DHS is developing a new automation function to their website, which is estimated to cost $783,382. However, by closing the offices, savings would result from less staff, fewer offices to be leased and fewer phone and data lines needed, as stated in a letter between DHS and HGEA.
Bridget Mowat, supervisor of the DHS eligibility office on Molokai, was unavailable for comment.