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Eddie Rodriquez: Long Lines Plaguing Clinton Hill’s Food Stamp and Job Office

February 27, 2012

Eddie Rodriguez President of Local 1549 of AFSCME

Every morning long lines stretch out in front of the entrance to the Northern Brooklyn Food Stamp and DeKalb Job Centers on DeKalb Avenue between Stillman and Franklin, seemingly frozen in time for those forced to wait.

On January 31st, during a City Council hearing Eddie Rodriquez, president of the New York Administrative-Clerical Workers Local 1549, testified that the HRA must hire at least 200 new food stamp eligibility specialists, but in the end they only hired an additional 44.

"That's not going to help, it's just going to put a little band-aid on it," he said after the hearing.

Supporters of the center as well as its clients say that there is unacceptable overcrowding at many of the job centers throughout the city, not just in Brooklyn. But those who benefit from the services of the Human Resource Administration’s DeKalb office say that this branch is especially overburdened.

"The wait is actually very long," said Portia Thornton. "They're always short on staff, computers shutting down, so it's horrible.”

Some people also find the human interaction once they do get helped less than pleasant.

"A lot of them don't have diplomacy; they're very nasty and hostile and belligerent," said Dwayne Andrews, a private bus operator currently on disability. "They got issues they need to address."

Not long ago HRA officials at a City Council hearing announced that many new food stamp eligibility specialists, the government workers that screen applicants for food stamps, have been hired.
Spokesperson for the agency, Nick Scorza said that the new hires caused “the elimination of lines at our centers.”

Scorza also said that all new employees received training in correct customer service behavior, and if there are any issues which people would like to report, they can call 311.

Rodriquez said that the specialists are overworked.

"They do a good job," he said.  “They are doing the best they can."

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