DPSS Translating Services During the Pandemic
As Los Angeles County (County) continues to face the challenges created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, communicating with our customers in their preferred language is more important than ever. The current global situation led the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) to publish COVID-19 related information in the ten threshold languages identified in the County with the goal of making information readily available to all customers.
To this end, the Department’s Civil Rights Translation Unit worked closely with the Board of Supervisors, the Chief Executive Office, and the Department of Public Health to translate vital information shared in writing and/or during news conferences.
In addition to providing services to other County departments, the DPSS Civil Rights Translation Unit also expedited the translation of 180 COVID-19 high priority departmental documents, such as the Director’s talking points, scripts, posters, flyers, notices, outbound calls, and videos. Accurate translations are integral to providing essential information to the County’s population, especially during the ongoing crisis.
End-to-End E2E Intake Expansion
With the economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities’ food insecurity greatly increased. As such, to aid the most vulnerable residents during the health crisis, the Department of Public Social Services’ (DPSS) Customer Service Center (CSC) expanded their hours of operation to accept and process applications over the telephone on the same day, without the need to visit a DPSS office. CSC End-to-End (E2E) Intake Eligibility Workers (EWs) are available Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The number of applications received through alternate sources such as the CSC E2E Intake operation increased drastically; CalFresh (CF) applications alone increased by 179% as compared to previous months. Prior to COVID-19, the E2E operation was processing an average of 4,500 CF applications each month. During the pandemic, CSC E2E Intake EWs have processed over 20,000 CF and Medi-Cal applications. The Department’s CSC E2E operation has proven to be essential to Los Angeles County residents by providing access to vital services within a short period of time while socially distancing and adhering to Department of Health guidelines.
IHSS Provider Online Orientation
The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program helps pay for services provided to eligible persons who are 65 years of age or over, legally blind, disabled adults and/or children so they can remain safely in their own homes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Safer at Home Order, in-person IHSS provider orientation sessions were postponed until further notice. The IHSS Provider Orientation is an essential requirement to qualify to become an IHSS Provider and entails the viewing of an informational video about the program.
To ensure continuity of services and to respond to increased provider demand, the Department deployed the IHSS Provider On-line Orientation (POLO) application. The application enables IHSS Helpline agents to electronically register potential providers to the orientation and generate a welcome email. The email provides guidance on the enrollment process and grants potential providers access to the mandatory provider training video. As of June 2020, over 14,000 online orientations have been scheduled. The increased pool of qualified providers, as a result of the implementation of the POLO application, minimizes the interruption of services to the IHSS Program’s consumers.
IHSS Skype Video Conference Assessment
The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program Social Workers (SWs) are required to conduct initial and annual face-to-face needs assessment home visits as part of the program’s requirements. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face assessments were no longer safe and required some modifications. As an option on April 16, 2020, the California Department of Social Services authorized counties to conduct initial face-to-face assessments via Video Conference (VC) to eliminate in-person contact. The IHSS population were fearful of having SWs come into their homes due to underlying health conditions, which puts them at greater risk if they were to get the virus.
To ensure customers’ and SWs’ wellbeing, existing Department Skype for Business software technology was leveraged to conduct VC assessments. IHSS SWs are now conducting assessments from remote locations without person-to-person contact and IHSS consumers are participating in assessment interviews from the security of their own homes. On average, for the months of June and July 2020, a total of 5,000 virtual assessment applications were received. This technology has helped the Department continue providing services to IHSS consumers during the pandemic
Processing Benefit Applications During COVID-19
In support of the County’s commitment to aid the most vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department proactively modified service operations to address its increase in workload. The Department established a process to continue servicing the community despite office closures, specifically homeless individuals lacking the resources to apply for services online. Designated drop-off and pick-up stations were set-up to facilitate the submission of paper applications and for the retrieval of mail and Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards.
Since March 2020, the Department has received a combined total of 746,839 applications related to CalFresh (CF), CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, and General Relief and has processed more than 730,000 applications. The Department received an increase of CF applications for March 2020 to August 2020 totaling 413,487 compared to 370,955 for the same period in 2019 – a total increase of 42,532 CF applications which represents an increase of 10%. As the pandemic persists, staff continue to effectively process applications received online and issue benefits to our community members.