Just Harvest's petition to improve customer service at the Department of Public Welfare

Dear Beverly Mackareth, Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,

Pennsylvania currently ranks as one of the worst states in the nation for slow food-stamp processing rates. For this reason, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which administers the SNAP/food stamp program, has required the state to take corrective action. Having encountered poor customer service at the DPW, and/or having learned from Just Harvest's research that such problems are systemic, we support the following demands to improve the treatment of Pennsylvania residents seeking assistance from the DPW and to address chronic problems in administering food stamp, cash assistance, and other public benefit programs in a timely, efficient, and respectful manner.

List of Demands:

1. Revamp the Department of Public Welfare’s phone system
--Stop all dropped calls at the Change Center
--Stop dropped calls and disconnects at the county assistance offices
--Put functioning phone numbers that are answered by human beings on all notices
2. Increase voice mail capacity on caseworkers’ phones
3. Send out computer generated notices to consumers to confirm their verification documents have been received and alert them to what documents are still needed
4. When consumers deliver documents in person at a CAO, staff should scan verification documents on site immediately and give receipt to consumers
5. Caseworkers must treat all consumers with dignity and respect
--Consumers should have access to service surveys and Just Harvest and the public should have access to those survey results
6. Data should be transparent
--The numbers of dropped calls, hold times, voice mail full frequency and lost verification documents should be reported regularly to the public
7. Secretary Mackareth should include substantially increased staffing of CAOs in the DPW’s departmental budget request
--Fight for inclusion in the Governor’s proposed budget for 2014-15

The stated mission of DPW is "to improve the quality of life for Pennsylvania’s individuals and families." Low-income families do not deserve to be treated so poorly by the tax-payer funded entities whose job it is to help them. Doing so undermines that mission. We look forward to your support and leadership in implementing the above corrections and improvements.


The Undersigned

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