New state hiring restrictions unlikely to quash DSS proposal

The Malloy administration announced that it will exercise tighter scrutiny on hiring by state agencies, but Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said he doesn’t expect the higher standards to get in the way of his request to hire more than 100 new workers.

Benjamin Barnes, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director, agreed that the request would likely meet the higher standards — “to some degree.”

“I’m certain that’s a critical priority given the troubles that we’ve had with administering some of the federal programs,” Barnes said Tuesday.

DSS is seeking to hire 134 new workers, 120 of whom would be responsible for handling eligibility for the wide range of programs the department administers.

The department has come under fire for problems in handling program applications in recent years. Legal aid lawyers sued the department earlier this month, blaming understaffing in the department for delays in processing Medicaid applications. The department is also facing potential federal sanctions for problems in processing applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

DSS received approval to refill 52 eligibility positions that became vacant when workers retired last fall and is in the process of hiring people.

Overall, state agencies received approval to hire about 1,000 workers to refill jobs left open after retirements last fall, but Barnes is now seeking additional justification before filling those jobs. He said his office would only authorize hiring for positions related to public health or safety, jobs that would generate or sustain more revenue than the cost of the position, or are “absolutely necessary” to ensure compliance with state or federal law or a court order.

Bremby said he thinks the department’s request for additional workers — which would be in addition to the 52 already authorized — meets the criteria Barnes set.