A backlog of more than 1,200 requests for services from social assistance programs such as Medicaid is being processed by the Department of Public Health and Human Services, according to department spokeswoman Janela Carrera.
The backup began in late January and extended through February when public health workers at the Northern Region Community Health Clinic contracted COVID-19 during the omicron surge.
“Several of our staff got sick, and of course that had a ripple effect, so a lot of our cases were impacted and what we ended up having to do was close some sections of Northern Public Health for deep cleaning and disinfection,” says Carrera.
The backlog worsened when several staff members retired or left the department at that time, she said.
Due to health risks, some sections of the department were not accepting documents and applications in person, so applicants were asked to file or submit them online or by email.
“These are just applications. This does not include change reports that need to be completed and there are also renewal requests,” Carrera said.
Meanwhile, staff members have also been busy processing benefits from the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, a federal program that provides eligible public school students with food stamp cards to compensate them for the free school meals that have ceased. due to the pandemic.
To help clear the backlog, three staff members were transferred from the Office of Health Care Funding Administration to assist the Office of Economic Security.
“We do our best to manage and process as many requests as possible,” Carrera said.
Carrera said she doesn’t know what services the majority of applicants are trying to get because many people say they want to know more about the programs they qualify for.
For example, someone who is primarily trying to get Medicaid may also indicate that they want to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“We check at all levels to see what they may be eligible for,” Carrera said.
Pacific Daily News reporter Jackson Stephens covers poverty as a member of the Report for America corps. You can reach him at