Hanover forced to cut programs designed to help the needy

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - In this tough economy, even the people helping you need help.

Demand is up so high at the Hanover County Department of Social Services -- several community programs are being cut across the board -- the demand for services like food stamps is up 34 percent from this time last year.

It's costing that department two popular community programs that ironically focus on helping people struggling in this economy.

Social services officials say so many people are coming through these doors in need to help -- they can barely afford the basics right now -- so anything extra is having to be put on hold."

"Medicaid, childcare, the basics, that's all we are going to be able to focus on just because of the sheer volume and need in our county," said Monica Chenault, Program Coordinator, Outreach and Customer Service.

In this recession -- it's probably not a huge shock to you that more people are in need for social services programs.

Officials with Hanover County say their numbers are way up -- and a lot of the increase is from middle class people who've lost their jobs and are now seeking help for the first time ever.

"They are coming here as a last resort and many are so embarrassed about the fact that they've lost everything," Chenault said.

Need for benefits like food stamps is up by more than a third from this time last year.

Not to mention -- Americorps funding was cut out of the state's budget. It's a program that's helped Hanover Social Services for 6 years. As a result, two programs are taking a hit.

"It's going to affect our outreach efforts, so we are going to have to scale back to meet the basic needs of our community," Chenault said.

Yesterday was the last day for "Stretch Your Dollar"-- a seminar series that focused on saving money while doing everyday things like grocery shopping or pumping gas.

"Hanover's Got You Covered" has also got to go. The clothing drive provides help to low income families in need, but next month will be the last event -- at least for a while.

"It's frustrating, but we are doing the best that we can, we are providing services and focusing on meeting the basic needs in our county," Chenault said.

Officials here hope to bring back both of these programs once the economy turns around.

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