To the editor:

Deseret News Social Services Writer Lois Collins deserves commendation for her insightful article Jan. 10 on the dilemmas facing both welfare recipients and employees at the Offices of Community Operations. Besides identifying their problems, she also pinpointed the solution - additional funding from the Legislature.Utahns needing assistance are having to wait up to 45 days for money to pay their rent and buy shoes for their children. Many are waiting 30 days for food stamps with which to buy milk for their babies. These are the maximum legal time limits.

Employees, on the other hand, are frustrated by computer problems. One worker claims she can manually process a claim in 10 minutes. Using a new information system which the state is installing but does not have fully operational, it takes her 50 minutes.

Caseloads are also a challenge. Workers are expected to be familiar with the welfare files of as many as 300 individuals. (It's no wonder they make occasional errors!) The situation was caused by a lack of funds to adequately staff these offices.

As Ms. Collins explained in her story, the situation will not likely improve until citizens call their legislators and explain the problems from personal experience. They need to tell lawmakers that the system is failing and may even self-destruct without funding for additional staff.

It is cruel to blink at the critical needs of the hungry and homeless - and those devoted, caring employees who are trying to help them. With sufficient citizen input, we can convince our elected representatives to earmark funds to resolve these issues.

Ron Probert

President

Utah Public Employees Association