Public Social Services
DPSS Digital Civic Engagement During COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) leveraged several internal and external digital communication platforms to broaden the reach of program services available to Los Angeles County residents. The economic impact of the pandemic has resulted in record unemployment rates forcing customers to rely on the CalFresh Program for food assistance, as well as on other programs and services for support.
Through the use of social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube), the Department shares valuable and timely information with customers on resources available to them, as well as how to apply through our Your Benefits Now (YBN!) on-line and Customer Service Center (CSC) telephone-based service channels. Additionally, through the subscriber-based digital newsletter, which has grown to over 42,000 subscribers since its initial implementation, critical information is shared with customers more quickly. The Digital Civic Engagement project enabled the Department to outreach to those in need of our programs and services, while complying with the County’s Safer at Home Orders.
DPSS Mobilizing for the Children of LA County
The Department of Public Social Services’ Toy Loan Program is the largest and most successful free toy-lending library program in the nation. This year marks the 5th anniversary of the Backpack and School Supply Giveaway, which takes place in the summer and serves families with limited financial resources in Los Angeles County (County). This year the event was held on August 5 and 6, 2020; approximately 800 backpacks and school supplies were issued to hundreds of children, ages 5 – 18, over the two-day period.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event followed an appointment-only model by allowing participants to drive-through or walk-up to obtain school supplies at their designated time to avoid the gathering of large crowds. All participants were advised to follow health recommendations from federal, State, and local officials, and program staff adhered to social distancing guidelines. Participating families remained safely in their vehicles while program staff placed the backpacks in their trunks. All school items were generously donated by County employees, private/corporate donors and through a partnership with Amazon Smile at: https://toydrive.lacounty.gov/.
DPSS Outbound Text Campaign for Food Giveaway
Many residents of Los Angeles County (County) lost their employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing California Safer At Home Order. As a result of families losing their primary source of income, their ability to provide food for their families was impacted. In addition, school closures added to the food insecurity problem in the County for families with minor children as many depend on the school free lunch program.
At the request of the Board of Supervisors, on June 2020, the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) made possible the “Free Food for Families” project. Through an outbound text campaign, DPSS delivered local food distribution drive information to over 100,000 needy residents and their families. The text system provided fast delivery of information to community members and generated more than 90,000 texts. This initiative met a critical need to provide time sensitive information to the public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Food Giveaway Text Campaign strategy was very effective as large turnouts were reported at the identified food distribution sites and every box of food was given away.
DPSS Project Room key
In April 2020, the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) Medi-Cal Outreach District (MOD), Line Operations Development (LOD) and Homeless Services Section partnered with the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority (LAHSA) to provide services to homeless individuals residing at hotels under the Project Room Key.
LAHSA identified 33 hotels and DPSS co-located MOD staff at these hotels to kick-off the project. Prior to deployment, MOD and LOD received listings that included information about the individuals housed at these hotels. The list’s information was cross referenced with the Department’s Leader Replacement System records to identify individuals who were currently receiving benefits; results revealed that 24% of the targeted Room Key population were not receiving benefits. MOD Eligibility Workers (EW) were deployed to the identified hotels from May 11, 2020 through July 17, 2020. The primary goal of EW staff was to address homeless individuals’ inquiries and help them apply for departmental benefits. The DPSS Project Room Key has proved to be a success, as approximately 2,100 applications have been processed since July 2020.
DPSS Secure Telework Initiative
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), in collaboration with the Internal Services Department (ISD), developed and deployed a secure and simple technology solution designed to accommodate the Department’s workforce needs and access requirements to allow staff to work remotely in a secure environment. Departmental employees were provided with the required security policy training and information as a measure to safeguard the County provided equipment and the employee’s personal devices.
With ISD’s assistance, DPSS was able to gather requirements and analyze, develop, pilot and deploy an enterprise solution that met teleworking needs within a two-week period. Currently, all 14,000 DPSS employees have access to teleworking and approximately 4,000 employees have an alternate telework schedule, using the Amazon AppStream and Virtual Private Network. The implementation of teleworking during the pandemic has allowed the Department to continue providing services to the most vulnerable populations while socially distancing and adhering to Department of Public Health guidelines.
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.