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Levy DCF to close by March

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The Florida Department of Children and Families will be closing its ACCESS service center for public assistance in Levy County, located at 124 N. Main St. in Chiefland, by March 2014.

“The reason we are doing this is that the ACCESS service centers have   become less necessary for our customers,” explained David Abramowitz, DCF Northeast Regional Director.  “DCF has changed the way in which people apply for and receive public assistance. Since 2005, people have been able to apply for food stamps, Temporary Cash Assistance and Medicaid on any   computer with Internet access at our website, myflorida.com/accessflorida.”

DCF understands that there are people in need who may not have Internet access in their homes. That is why the department has partnered with 49 community centers, food banks, churches and libraries in Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties to provide computers for peopleto apply for economic assistance.

“We are reaching out to community leaders and legislators to help us find more community partners,” Abramowitz said.

The changes in DCF’s processes have resulted in a number of benefits:

n People now have more ways to apply for economic assistance in more  places. The days of long lines at DCF service centers are a thing of the past.

n The increased efficiency of our system is saving Florida taxpayers as much as $83 million a year.

Additionally, Florida has received more than $47 million in bonuses from the federal government over the past four years.  DCF’s efforts have made Florida the No. 1 state in the country for accuracy in food stamp processing, according to the federal government.

The jobs of the nine ACCESS employees at this service center will not be affected by these changes. These employees are being offered telecommuting positions or jobs at other service centers.

Currently in Levy County, 8,784 people are receiving food stamps.  The number of people receiving food stamps increased dramatically in the 2000’s, but  has slowed down in recent years. From year to year, the number of Levy County residents receiving food stamps went up by only 1 percent. The percentage of children in Levy County being helped by food stamps is 34 percent.

Agencies or organizations that are interested in partnering with DCF to help  provide economic assistance to people in need are encouraged to contact Community Development Administrator Janet Bente Romero at janet_romero@dcf.state.fl.us.