By Stefanie Jackson – Nearly 40% of Northampton residents receive Medicaid benefits since Medicaid expansion took effect in Virginia on Jan.1, requiring Northampton County Social Services to commit 2.5 full-time employees to manage the enrollment increase.
“This is one of the best investments that we make,” Spencer Murray, chairman of Northampton’s board of supervisors said of the department of social services.
In 2018, the department provided more than $41 million worth of assistance and services, about $5 million more than the previous year, and that was with a slight drop in county funding.
Northampton contributed roughly 1.5% of what the department spent, or nearly $752,000, about $12,000 less than the previous year.
Nearly 82% of the local funds spent, or more than $612,000, is reimbursable to the county, Mozella Francis, director of Northampton County Social Services said.
The department is funded with about 54% federal funding and nearly 44% state funding.
About one in three Northampton residents receive assistance from social services.
But from 2012 to 2018, there was an overall drop in the number of residents receiving social services benefits, from around 4,900 to 4,500.
The number of people receiving food stamps, officially named SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), dropped from around 3,900 to about 2,900.
The number of people receiving welfare, officially named TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), dropped from 450 to about 200.
Supervisor David Fauber asked, “Are these numbers going down because they voluntarily are leaving and they’re better off, they don’t need to be on the programs, or is it something to do with the system that’s … getting them off this program?”
Francis said there are multiple reasons the numbers are down.
At one time, a family had to receive TANF to qualify to also receive SNAP, but that is no longer the case, Francis said.
But the number of people receiving Medicaid benefits increased from nearly 3,500 people to more than 3,900 people from 2012 to 2018, and it rose higher after Medicaid expansion.
Applications for Medicaid expansion were accepted beginning in November 2018. As of Jan. 1, 301 people had enrolled.
By May 17, 750 had enrolled, bringing the total number of Northampton residents enrolled in Medicaid to nearly 2,300.
But the number of people enrolled does not account for all household members served by the program. Medicaid now serves nearly 4,500 people in Northampton.
Murray said Francis and her team have done a “phenomenal job” of working through the influx of Medicaid applications.
He called social service workers the “frontline” responders who “sense and know the pulse of our community. They’re the closest to what issues and challenges and problems that members of our community are having.”
“It’s tough sometimes, when you and your staff see things that are possibly very hard to forget, and on behalf of the board, I’d like to say I really appreciate everything that you do and the department of social services does.”