Michigan Department of Human Services issuing layoffs notices to 100 employees this week

Associated Press

One of Michigan's largest state agencies is issuing layoff notices to about 100 workers this week due to a $7.5 million budget cut.

Department of Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton said Wednesday that many affected employees work in two offices in Detroit and the Grand Rapids area that are closing. The workers process applications for public assistance when people first apply and forward them along.

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The functions will be handled more in county field offices.

Wheaton said the 11,000-employee agency is trying to keep cuts away from field offices with a direct role in caseloads. He also said there will not be cuts in jobs that directly provide child welfare services related to a judge's oversight of Michigan's child welfare system.

Workers will be laid off effective Feb. 15 but may be able to move into some vacant positions. Sixty-one are assistance payments staff and supervisors, 19 are other managers or supervisors, 10 are analysts and seven are secretaries.

"A number of positions have gone unfilled so that there are vacant positions that employees affected by the reduction may fill," Wheaton said. "DHS wanted to absorb as many of the reductions as possible through employee attrition and minimize layoffs."

Ray Holman, spokesman for the UAW local that represents many of the department's employees, credited the agency for trying to maintain caseworkers at the "front lines" but said it needs more workers, not less.

"Right now, the caseworkers are already swamped," he said, saying those losing their jobs helped alleviate the workload for front-line caseworkers. "They're stretched pretty thin."

Since 2008, the department has been under the eye of a court-appointed monitor to settle a lawsuit over a range of child welfare issues, including foster care, child protection and health care. The group that forced the state to improve its child welfare system is opposed to ending court oversight.

But the state says the case should be closed or the agreement modified because 79 percent of goals have been met.

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