UPDATE: 4/1/14 11:09 am
The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has announced that it will continue to offer services in East Liberty. It is in the process of looking for a new permanent home for the office.
A Department of Public Welfare office in Pittsburgh is closing, and Just Harvest is taking a stand for the workers and families that will be affected.
Starting May 2, families who currently go to the state's Greater Pittsburgh East Office will be directed to one of three other offices in the Pittsburgh area, but some worry the shutdown poses a potential problem.
“So this office, if it’s moved from East Liberty to McKeesport, that’s an additional hardship for families, because now instead of taking one bus and it maybe costing me $4 or $5, I maybe potentially have to catch 4 buses and it could cost me as much as $15-20,” said Rochelle Jackson, Public Policy Advocate for Just Harvest.
Many of the documents required to receive assistance can be filled out online, but because of the variety of services provided by the DPW, families have to visit the office to get help.
According to Jackson, families who need assistance often find themselves unable to get through on the phone, or that their faxes do not get transmitted successfully, or their documents are lost.
Last year Just Harvest released a report to the DPW and suggested improvements to the system.
“That’s what we’ve been working on with the department in improving some of these customer service issues, like having good phone numbers making sure people can get through on phone lines, making sure that case workers can call individuals back to answer questions to clarify things, and in the midst of us working with the department on rectifying some of these customer service issues, we hear that they’re now just going to shut a whole office completely down,” said Jackson.
According to Jackson, the East Liberty office is closing due to availability of rental space. People who are affected can go to one of three other locations: downtown Pittsburgh, McKeesport, or New Kensington. Employees are being relocated to these other offices.
Just Harvest will host a rally Tuesday in an effort to keep open the DPW office in East Liberty.