This isn't about Katrina.
Yesterday, our office got the scouting party version of the Katrina escapees who ended up in Austin. Houston is getting the huge group from Louisiana stadium, but apparently, designated shelters have been set up throughout the state, including a rumor of a fairly large one in San Antonio.
So yesterday, it was twenty five of them, today eighty-two. That isn't a lot, comparatively speaking, to say, Houston or Dallas--it just doubled our current workload and we pulled trainers and supervisors into active interviewing--that was fun, because most haven't interviewed in a *decade*. Except we got freaked at the realization that Houston's office would be dealing with *thirty thousand*, at a minimum, nto counting the people who aren't part of that bulk group.
To give you an idea--there is an average of twenty-thirty interviewing workers per office in a city above about a 100,000. Even with our drastically shortened protocol--and I mean, right now, disaster protocol is basically having an ID to get benefits--you can't do more than two to four an hour, at *best*. Houston has, in all its offices, at best, one hundred to one hundred fifty people who can approve benefits. That is if we pull *everyone* from doing *anything else*, including normal certifications and recertifications, childrne's medicaid, supplemental nutritional programs, all the multiple Medicaids that don't fall under elderly and disabled, not to mention the people who work on elderly foodstamp certification.
To recap this--in teh entire state, we have probably less than three thousand people who are capable of distributing benefits, and almost all of them are doing the work of two people right now, just to keep the system relatively stable as is. And I really, realy, really have no idea how we're going to do this. To be honest, I'm not sure we have enough computers to do it. I'm not sure the computers can run as much as they might need to, since as of today, overnight processing has been suspended and possibly the mandatory back-ups as well. And well, the state buys sucky computers.
So, the Commissionner has set two things into effect. One, all Katrina escapees get same day service, so we do shut our doors until the last one is certified, which according to what I heard over the grapevine, was processing went on until nine last night at some offices. Second, Saturday and Monday are now workdays. We aren't required to come in. We are just encouraged to do so if necessary. Same policy on same day service applies.
No one refused. No one even *winced*.
I'm proud of my agency right now. I mean, not the Commissioner or the upper levels of the bureaucracy. It's easy to make a rule when you don't have to deal with it later.
I'm proud of my *people*, my coworkers, who were still working when I left at six-fifteen to get the Lone Star cards out and instructing clients where to go to use them. I'm proud because if they had to, they were there until nine last night and came in at seven this morning. I'm proud because doing two to three interviews an hour is *murderous*, and they did it for eight hours straight and some skipped lunch to keep going to keep up our current workload and intergrate the extra people in. I'm proud because the first thing they did when they heard what Houston would have to deal with was to *make sure they'd been designated as volunteers*, so if they were needed, they'd be ready to go. I'm so proud that when I walked by offices today, they were talking to every escapee, letting them talk out whatever they'd gone through, and that they didn't watch the clock for the end of the day, when half the people in this office aren't even eligible for their own jobs come January.
I can't name them, and they'd probably *step on me* if I tried to express to them how utterly amazed I am that they can keep up this pace and be perfectly calm when looking to a weekend that won't be free, because I don't think a single one sees this as anything other than their duty, their--vocation. They're employees of the state, and for them, this is what they *do*, what we are, what we're trained to do, now just to do a lot of it very, very, very fast.
I'm not sure if they'll be remembered, so I thought here, I'd remember for them.