FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Contact: The Mississippi Department of Human Services, Office of Communications
Danny Blanton, (601) 359-4612, firstname.lastname@example.org OR
Vanessa C. Lowe, (601) 359-4183, email@example.com
MDHS works to continue services during COVID-19 crisis
(Jackson, Miss.) – The Mississippi Department of Human Services is taking the necessary measures to ensure the safety and welfare of employees and clients while still providing the services needed and counted on during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.
“Our primary commitment is, and always will be helping Mississippi families when they need it most, especially during this time when so many lives are being affected,” MDHS Executive Director Bob Anderson said. “We will make every effort to continue providing the services for people who have come to rely on us and those who are being affected by the pandemic.”
Among the programs taking active measures to provide for clients are:
Home Delivered Meals
The Home Delivered Meals, a program where meals are provided to eligible homebound persons in their homes, will continue uninterrupted. Every effort will be made to limit exposure to those receiving the meals. In addition, congregate feeding sites, where senior citizens gather and eat in groups, have been suspended eight weeks due to virus concerns, and those meals will be converted to shelf-stable food and frozen food which, will allow us to provide more food for citizens at their homes.
The APS Call Center will also screen reports for possible contact with Coronavirus.
Child Care Services
The Division of Early Childhood Care and Development is working with the Office of Child Care to determine what options are available for the use of CCDF funding during this emergency. An emergency waiver has been submitted to address situations such as interruption of services due to childcare center closures and excessive absences as families begin to keep children at home. The waiver also includes a request that childcare payments be made to providers based on enrollment instead of attendance. If the waiver is approved, DECCD will notify all providers as soon as possible.
MDHS is also in contact with the administration at the Mississippi State Department of Health. Waiver requests are submitted by DHS to federal authorities to seek temporary relief from controlling federal legal guidelines due to emergency circumstances. The decision whether to grant a waiver is in the sole discretion of the federal agency.
As of now, the Health Department is not recommending the closure of childcare programs. The Health Department is recommending that childcare centers follow the same CDC guidelines included below. If at any time, Child Care Licensure does recommend closure, MDHS will notify providers as soon as possible. The agency recommends providers keeping open communication with their licensing official regarding any decisions that the Health Department may make. If providers decide to voluntarily close their center, they are asked to send an email informing the agency of their closure at firstname.lastname@example.org.
County offices are currently open to the public, but clients and potential clients are encouraged to reach out to the agency by phone or online instead of visiting county offices. To ensure the health and wellbeing of agency staff and the public without adversely affecting Program access, MDHS has requested the USDA Food and Nutrition Service approve a waiver to allow the state to close county office lobby areas to the public, while still providing alternate means for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applicants and recipients to communicate with MDHS staff.
Regional offices have been closed to the public and paternity testing has been suspended temporarily. However, the offices continue to conduct child support business and are available by phone, email, and online.
MDHS has suspended all new admissions to Oakley Youth Development Center and has closed Oakley to all public visitors. Only essential personnel and vendors will be allowed access to Oakley during the COVID-19 event.
As of now, Community Services expects to continue its services if at all possible.
The Public Service Commission has temporarily suspended disconnections from water, sewer, electricity, and gas services under its jurisdiction for 60 days, including Entergy and Atmos Gas, but please continue to pay utilities during this time.
To the extent possible, telephone interviews and telephone case management will be used to reduce or eliminate all traffic in our offices.
Appointments for elderly and disabled clients who have been served before may be cancelled and case workers may contact them by phone for an interview since in most cases their income and household size has not changed. The current bill must be provided. These cases can be updated by case worker online and services will be provided. If their income has changed, the client can provide a copy of their pay stub by mail or digitally to https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/contact/.
For all other appointments to include new clients and existing clients with earned income:
If a plan is submitted for telephone interview and approved, clients can submit eligibility information such as income, by mail, email, or digitally to the link above.
MDHS is waiving the requirement for Social Security cards for Community Services programs during this time until further notice. However, the social security numbers must be provided during the application process.
For the most recent updates and guidelines we have available, go to https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/covid-19-updates/.