Welfare checks arrive late yet again
Once again, Nevada County welfare checks were late this month.
“There was a problem again,” said Cynthia Bryan, Adult and Family Services program manager. “Some checks took three and four days to deliver.”
The usual turnaround for local mail – most of which is routed through a processing center in Marysville and back again – is one day on weekdays and two or three days on the outside for letters mailed on Saturday and Sunday, the postal service claims.
Ninety-five percent of the mail is supposed to arrive the following day, Northern California postal service spokesman Dan De Miglio said last month.
In early March, however, more than 200 absentee ballots arrived at the Nevada County Elections Office too late to be counted – some of which were mailed seven days before the March 5 primary.
March 7, it was learned that 125 welfare checks were also late in arriving at western Nevada County destinations.
De Miglio blamed the delays on bar-code sorter breakdowns at the Marysville plant and said the postal service would do everything “humanly possible” to ensure the delays didn’t happen again.
When told by The Union Wednesday that welfare checks were late once again, De Miglio declined to comment and referred questions to his assistant, Susie Glover.
“I don’t have any answers at all,” Glover said. “No machine was broken down.”
Nevada City Postmaster Michael Nau said he, too, doesn’t know what happened.
“I have no idea,” Nau said. “Our track record has been excellent.”
Glover said the U.S. Postal Service received 20 complaints from Grass Valley residents who said their welfare checks were late again.
Due to the complaints, Glover said, the postal service would consider not sending welfare checks addressed to Grass Valley residents to Marysville for processing.
Bryan said the 630 welfare checks were hand-delivered to the Nevada City Post Office the morning of March 29, but came back to the Grass Valley Post Office from Marysville on three different days.
“That tells us that somewhere along the line, there seems to be a hitch,” Bryan said.
This month, Bryan said, 50 welfare checks were late, compared to more than 125 last month.
“But that’s still too many, and there’s still possible harm to clients,” she said.
Cedar Ridge welfare recipient Kathy Randall said she knows people who have been evicted from homes and some who have had their utilities shut off because of the late checks.
Randall said April was the fourth month in a row her check has been late.
“No one seems to know where the breakdown is,” Randall said. “In the meantime, our checks are getting later and later.”
Bryan said Adult and Family Services has double-checked its procedures to make sure there are no errors, and hasn’t found any.
The problem isn’t with the county’s accounting system, said Nevada County Treasurer and Tax Collector E. Christina Dabis.
“It’s the postal service we can’t depend on,” Dabis said.
So why doesn’t the county mail the welfare checks earlier, considering the ongoing delays?
“We’re asking that question and looking at if we can do that legally and what the ramifications are,” Bryan said.
Dabis said a problem with mailing checks out early is that the treasury would be thrown out of balance if they were cashed before the first-of-the-month issue date.
Bryan said the county is creating a new procedure to deal with the problem until a solution can be found.
“We’re going to keep more precise records and start logging complaints, addresses and the dates the checks arrive to see if we can find any patterns,” she said.
If there’s a possibility of welfare recipients being evicted or having utilities shut off due to late checks, “let us know right away so we can look at anything we can do to help,” Bryan said.
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