Atmore closing food stamp office

Published 2:46 am Wednesday, January 28, 2009

By By MaryClaire Foster
Despite mounting applications for food stamp assistance, a state hiring freeze means the Department of Human Resources can't hire the extra help needed to process requests - and DHR is being forced to close its Atmore satellite office.
Atmore officials complained about the closure, especially because as of fall 2008, Atmore had about 100 more food stamp applicants than Brewton and Flomaton combined.
As of December 2008, 7,767 people in 3,055 households in Escambia County were receiving assistance.
The financial services department of DHR, located in Brewton, is what handles the Food Assistance Program also known as food stamps and has five full-time case workers, two of which travel to Atmore twice a week to interview people for the program.
An increase in participants also means an increase in cases for the five certified workers, and a state government hiring freeze means no extra help is available. The five caseworkers are currently handling between 500 and 650 cases a person, well above the 350 to 400 the state recommends for a worker's caseload.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell and county commissioner Wiley Tait both expressed their frustrations with their view that Atmore and the west end of the county seemingly continually has funding and other resources cut short.
The transition of the caseworkers permanently back to Brewton is not scheduled to occur until the end of March, and in the meantime Barnes said she will work with the city to find a suitable liaison