Knabe Calls for General Relief Reform to Reduce Fraud, Help Those In Need

A motion by Supervisor Don Knabe on the Tuesday, October 18, 2011 agenda for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors calls for specific recommendations for restructuring the County’s General Relief (GR) program to reduce fraud and direct resources to those most in need.  The motion comes as the County has seen its caseload nearly double since January 2007.

General Relief is a state-mandated program that requires counties to provide assistance to indigent adults who do not qualify for other benefits.  Los Angeles County accounts for nearly 70 percent of the total statewide population receiving benefits.

In 2010 and 2011, on motions from Supervisor Knabe, the County began restructuring the GR program, with a focus on strengthening efforts to assist GR participants with accessing one of the two paths off of the program – employment or disability.  During the review process, it was learned that nearly one-third of the assistance payments were being made to individuals who were not pursuing either path, requirements for participation in the program.

“During these tough times, we have seen the caseload for General Relief rise dramatically, with an alarming cost to the County,” said Supervisor Knabe. “On top of these already sizeable demands on our system, the economic crisis has increased the number of people needing our services, due to a foreclosure or job loss.  Many families are using County services for the first time, desperate for help.”

“As a result, we have been more aggressive about ensuring that scarce taxpayer resources are properly used to aid those most in need and the results to date have been very positive,” Knabe continued.  “But we cannot ignore the fact that a huge number of program participants are not playing by the rules.  That simply isn’t fair to those who are actively seeking employment or moving onto disability.”

Earlier this year, the County’s Chief Executive Office and Department of Public Social Services developed a menu of options to reduce costs for administering the GR program, including verification of residency, increased case management and strengthening the sanction policy when GR participants refuse or fail to comply with program requirements.  Knabe called for further assessment of these options and am implementation plan.