RGC Social Service Department warns of pending changes

RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Rio Grande County Social Service Department Director Jodi Kern warned of pending changes during her monthly update at the County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 24.

Kern stated that though she is still waiting for details from the federal government involving the public health emergency declaration her department was dealing with to determine service eligibility, she wanted to let the public know that changes were going to be happening soon.

The federal government issued a public health emergency in the spring of 2020 and has since renewed the emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic every year since, but that declaration will be coming up for review again soon and chances are, will not be renewed for another year.

During the emergency, social services throughout the nation were able to offer additional services to people who previously were not eligible for those services.

Now that the situation may be changing, Kern wanted to begin to get the word out to local families that may be relying on the support so that they can make arrangements ahead of the coming transition.

“We can’t put a press release out yet, but we can spread the word as much as possible until we know more,” said Kern.

Kern explained that the target date was still unknown but that the department will receive 60 days notice before the services are no longer available.

“Some people were receiving additional supplemental food assistance or were placed on Medicaid when they may not have been before. We are letting them know that those changes are coming,” Kern said.

Kern stated that the impact of these changes will be widely felt.

“This is a huge impact. It's not just going to impact our clients, it's going to impact the hospitals, it's going to impact the groceries stores. It's going to impact our communities pretty hard,” Kern said. “Clients are used to having these services now and the extra funding and the amount of work this is going to create will also be huge. We have to rework all of these cases again.”

Kern said that as far as staffing goes, her department should be fine as of the day of the meeting but said that could always change. More details about the coming changes will be reported as they are available.