The Department of Human Resources has implemented productivity standards to evaluate 136 caseworkers who handle new welfare cases and recertify cases in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.
The standards were developed by DHR administrators and employers over the past three years. The program is part of DHR efforts to increase production and lessen errors in the city Payments Assistance Administration (PAA), said PAA director Bertrell L. Hallum.
Officials have estimated that approximately 17 percent of the District families receiving AFDC are overpaid or are ineligible for benefits. Under federal standards, errors should not exceed 4 percent of work completed.
Early last year, PAA reorganized some work to improve efficiency, said Hallum. For example, workers who previously processed applications for several programs now specialise in one program.
About 136 workers are under the standards program and are rated monthly on production, the number and kinds of errors and work quality. Ratings also include evaluations of workers' technical knowledge and written and verbal communication with clients. The ratings, which are made by supervisors and reviewed by Hallum, began in September. Eventually about 176 other PAA employes, excluding supervisors, will be subject to the ratings.
Employes who exceed the work standards will be eligible for promotion, said DHR director Albert P. Russo. Workers unable to meet the standards will be retrained, demoted or resigned, said Russo. In some cases, incompetent workers will be fired, he said.
"The name of the game is productivity. Employes are not functioning as they should in terms of productivity," said Russo. "Now if there are goldbricks we'll know who they are. If there are superstars we'll know who they are and act accordingly."
During the 1978 and 1979 DHR budget hearings before the Senate appropriations subcommittee, Russo said that committee chairman Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt) "made it clear he was concerned about PAA workers who were nonproductive, improperly supervised and not earning their salary."
"This is an attempt to ensure taxpayers that these public employes will work at a level that justifies their salary," said Russo.
The minimum production standards require that GS-5 employes complete 15 applications a month with no more than seven errors. Only three may be payment errors. GS-7 employes must complete 20 applications a month with a maximum of six errors. Only two may be payment errors. And GS-9 employes must complete 30 applications a month with only five errors, including two payments errors.
Employes and supervisors view the standards with mixed reactions. Both groups agree that standardized guidelines are beneficial. But they say that production quotas are not always realistic.
For instance, ease flows are not constant, they explained, and workers cannot be assured of receiving the minimum quota of cases each month. In addition, DHR community offices don't always submit their cases on time to the PAA central office, creating backlogs, employes say.
"In one sense I feel they (the standards) will be beneficial for those workers who don't do their work," said Adella Frier, a GS-9 who handles new welfare applications. However, they won't affect workers already performing on par, she said.
Louise Greene, a supervisor in a recertification unit, said, "In terms of rating performances, it odes simplify our job and it clarifies for the employe what their expectations are to be."
Tayloria Cooke, a GS-9 in a PAA recertification unit, said while she agreed standards were necessary, "I also think it's kind of unfair."
Cooke said the required workload of 30 applications decreased her interviewing time with clients and increased pressure when clients failed to show for scheduled reviews. "Most of the time theycome. But some months nobody shows up and I have to totally reschedule. Then they don't always bring in all the informantion.
"I think quality is more important than quantity. If we could get away with just reviewing the client and not writing them up we'd be all right. One day I had 13 forms on one case."