The city bureau responsible for distributing $300 million in social services payments annually, has been moved from the city welfare department to the office of the controller in the Department of Human Resources.

About 215 staff members comprising the Bureau of Collections and Payments have been moved to the controller's office to bring nearly all of the DHR financial functions under one agency, DHR Director Albert P. Russo announced last week at a press conference. Previously the bureau was part of the Payments Assistance Administration (PAA).

The move represents the first "major change that has been made in terms of organizational structure in DHR during the past two years," said Russo. He added that there would be other changes in PAA.

The change resulted from a one-year study conducted by the DHR office of planning and evaluation, Russo said. The study concluded that PAA would be more effective in reducing errors in processing applications for welfare payments if it was not encumbered by the payments and collection process.

Within recent years, DHR has struggled to reduce a continuing high error rate in PAA involving eligibility determinations made of new and existing applicants receiving Aid for Dependent Children, Medicaid and other social services.

"This planning is directed at one objective-to do all that is possible to allow PAA to be as effective as possible," said Russo "I expect within the next two to three months we'll be ready to announce a further realignment of PAA."

Russo also announced that beginning Jan. 1, there will be a slight increase in maximum income levels for medically needy people seeking Medical assistance. Recipients of AFCD or Supplemental Security Income (SS) may not apply for this assistance, said Russo. It is estimated that an additional 800 persons will receive services under this plan monthly as a result of the income changes.