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Mo. Lawmakers Criticize Requirement That DSS Workers Must Also Provide Voter Registration Services

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS)has again come under the microscope of an interim legislative committee looking into whether state agencies are operating efficiently.

Some members of the House Interim Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness and Efficiency questioned whether Social Services workers are spending enough time on the agency's heavy case load.  State RepresentativeMarsha Haefner (R, Oakville) says she found during one office visit "stacks and stacks of files" in one room waiting to be processed.

"It's no wonder that we lose track of information on people and don't get reimbursed by the federal government," Haefner said.

Haefner also told fellow committee members she was surprised to learn that DSS workers are required to provide voter registration services to anyone who asks.

"I had no idea that that was the function of Missouri (Dept. of) Social Services," Haefner said.  "We are paying state employees, who are having a problem getting their paperwork so we can get reimbursed from the federal government, we're paying them on our nickel to register voters."

Haefner says processing case files should be a higher priority for Social Services workers than registering voters.  Acting DSS Director Brian Kincade attended the hearing and told the committee that not registering voters is not an option.

"It is a federal requirement," Kincade said.  "We were sued back (when) Governor (Matt) Blunt (R) was in office (and) we lost a lawsuit."

Committee members also examined other issues, including a slight increase in the number of blind pensioners Missouri.

Committee Chair Sue Allen (R, Town and Country) began the meeting by telling members to "take a good deep breath and smell the mold in this room," as a way of pointing out that funding for the State Capitol and other aging state properties should not be overlooked.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.