Cuyahoga Job and Family Services Tackles Increased Need for Food Assistance During Pandemic and Economic Downturn
Every year Cuyahoga Job and Family Services (CJFS) helps thousands of struggling families stay healthy and nourished by administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides food benefits so families can buy groceries. During the pandemic and associated economic downturn, many families that never needed help before are reaching out and applying for SNAP benefits.
With such an increased and urgent need, many residents are flooding the phone lines to apply or check on the status of their application. In November, CJFS received more than 88,000 calls. Compared to November of 2019, this a 38% increase, or over 24,000 more calls. SNAP is the primary driver behind this increase with double the call volume compared to the same time period last year. As a result, phone wait times have increased. CJFS is working on several ways to decrease wait times and ensure everyone who needs help gets it in the most efficient way possible.
- Increased staffing – CJFS has hired 18 new Eligibility Specialists who are just wrapping up their training and will be ready to start taking calls December 13th.Other staff are being cross trained to help on the phone lines during peak times.
- Overtime – Employees will work overtime to help process as many SNAP applications as possible so residents can get an answer on their case.
- Scheduling – Scheduled interview appointments will be limited on Mondays so staff can handle the increased call volume on those days.
- Prioritization – The CJFS tracking system will help prioritize cases that have all the supporting documents submitted so they can be processed and approved quickly.
CJFS is also asking the State Department of Job and Family Services to take advantage of waivers made available by the federal government that will ease the administrative burden on the agency.
There are a few things residents applying for benefits should know that can make their experience smoother and keep them from waiting on the phone:
- You can apply or check the status of your case online at www.benefits.ohio.gov.Find out how to create an account, apply for benefits, make case changes or upload documents at How to Use the Self-Service Portal.
- You may take a picture of your verification documents and email it to JFS-Cuyahoga-MIPC@jfs.ohio.gov. Please include your full name and case number in the email. (TIP: iPhone or iPad users can take pictures through the Notes App and easily email us your documents or upload them to the Self Service Portal.)
- Please allow five business days before calling for an update on your application.It takes some time for all your information and documents to be received and reviewed in the system.
- To check the status of your case call 1-844-640-OHIO (6446) and press 2 after selecting your language. You’ll be asked to provide your zip code, Social Security Number and date of birth. You will then be provided with your benefit status without having to wait for a live person.
- Sign up for text alerts.After you hear the status of your case, you can sign up for text or voice notifications about your case.
- If you need to speak to a person you don’t have to sit on the phone.You can reserve your spot in the queue and opt to have us call you back when it’s your turn.
For more details on the best way to contact us, how to use the online applications, or submit documents visit our website https://hhs.cuyahogacounty.us/