State worker layoffs continue at three agencies

This is a picture of Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby.

Arielle Levin Becker / The CT Mirror

Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration continued to issue layoff notices Tuesday to state employees, serving pink slips to 71 workers including about 40 clerical staff in the Department of Social Services.

The administration also aid off workers at the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and at the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Lori Pelletier, president of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO, criticized the way the layoffs are being handled, saying some workers had been escorted out “like they have done something wrong.” She referred to the DSS layoffs as “today’s fiasco with a 1-800 number to find out they are getting laid off.”

“Today was a sad day for Connecticut, as the Malloy administration and Department of Social Services laid off dedicated clerical employees around the state, including my region in New Britain,” said Yolando Rolando, president of the union representing state clerical workers. “The workers were laid off by way of a conference call. They were told to get their belongings and go home. … It’s also an indictment of the governor’s so-called new economic reality, which seems to be an excuse for punishing middle class state workers instead of asking our wealthiest citizens to sacrifice a little bit to protect public services.”

GianCarl Casa, a spokesman for the state Office of Policy and Management, said, “Every employee affected at DSS met face-to-face with his or her manager. In 10 of 12 locations there was a union steward present. Human resources staff were present in most cases and were made available on the phone to answer any questions the individuals, across multiple agency offices, may have had.”

The administration also served notices to 24 workers at DMHAS and 4 employees at DECD. The latter were support staff for the Connecticut Welcome Centers on the state’s highways.

Combined with workers who received pink slips on Monday, 236 state employees have been laid off to date.

The administration served a total of 165 notices Monday to workers in the Department of Children and Families — including those at Connecticut Juvenile Training School — and at the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

One of state government’s largest departments, Social Services has been criticized by legislators, union leaders and social services advocates for years for being understaffed.

The department, which has about 1,800 full-time employees, faced two federal class-action lawsuits in recent years alleging that it had failed to meet federal timeliness standards for processing applications for Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – the program formerly known as food stamps.

One of the suits tied delays in processing Medicaid applications – which the lawsuit said left people who qualified for the program going months without needed care and medications – to a shortage of staff in the department. As part of a 2014 settlement, the state agreed to meet certain benchmarks for timely application processing. Although the settlement did not require specific staffing levels, the department determined it would need to hire additional workers to comply.

Sheldon Toubman, one of the attorneys representing plaintiffs in the case, said Tuesday that DSS already barely complies with federal court orders and regulations because there aren’t enough workers to process documents in a timely fashion.

“Without clerical staff, presumably the enrollment workers will be required to do some of their tasks themselves, so they will have less time to devote to processing clients’ cases, putting the agency even further behind in keeping up with its basic obligations under federal law,” said Toubman, an attorney with the New Haven Legal Assistance Association.

“This is a difficult process – for state government and for all of our employees,” Malloy said Monday. “But it’s one that nevertheless must occur as we adapt to our new economic reality. State government cannot provide all the services it has always delivered.”

 

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