Florida Uses Federal Stimulus Funds to Create Employment and New Call Center in Marion County (09/16/09)

For Immediate Release 
September 16, 2009

DCF Communications
(850) 488-4855


Florida Uses Federal Stimulus Funds to Create Employment and New Call Center in Marion County

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) today announces a subsidized employment program to assist unemployed individuals who may be at risk of welfare dependency. The entire cost of the project is $2,592,289, and 80 percent of these funds will be available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The remaining 20 percent, or $500,000, will come from DCF trust fund accounts.

Florida’s Joint Legislative Budget Commission granted DCF the funding to hire 75 Other Personal Services (OPS) employees to establish a new ACCESS Florida call center in Ocala. In addition to call center sites in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, the new center will help provide public assistance to 2.2 million Floridians. The recent loss of a major employer in Ocala was a devastating blow, and this project will help restore economic stability to this community.

“The ACCESS Program has seen a 98 percent increase in food stamp cases in the past six years with a 43 percent decrease in staff,” said George Sheldon, Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
“These new employees will help alleviate the increased workload while expediting the application process. At the same time, we have a tremendous opportunity to help a struggling community.”

The employment program is a collaborative effort among federal, state and local partners, including Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation, the City of Ocala, the Economic Development Corporation, local legislative delegation, Marion County and the Workforce Connection. Workforce Connection, an organization which coordinates local employment and training efforts, will identify individuals who are eligible to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These individuals will then be referred to the Department as candidates for the call center positions.

“With Marion County’s unemployment rate for July at 12.6 percent, we are pleased to partner with DCF to expand local call center services,” said Rusty Skinner, Chief Executive Officer for the Workforce Connection which serves Marion County. “By referring our eligible unemployed citizens to DCF for consideration, we are achieving an important first step to assist our three-county area rebound from devastating job losses resulting from the economic downturn.”

DCF expects that the hiring and training process will take place within the next several months. The federal funding will be available through September 2010, but DCF must make an additional request to the legislature to continue the project past the end of the state fiscal budget year in July. For more information about ACCESS Florida eligibility and services, visit http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/ess/.

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