Employees in Broome County's Department of Social Services want steps taken to deal with the ongoing problem caused by dozens of vacant positions.

Current and former department workers say there are not enough people to provide necessary services.

Broome County Executive Jason Garnar on Thursday said there has been "a big challenge" in hiring employees for social services positions and for other departments.

During a WNBF News interview, Garnar said there had been staffing issues "even before Covid." He said the challenge of hiring new people and filling positions is happening "not just at DSS, it's really across the board."

The county executive acknowledged there now are "some serious problems" with social services staffing.

In December, Broome County's personnel officer advised lawmakers that 82 funded social services positions were vacant.

Garnar said some positions in the department have been upgraded, although workers said not everyone received raises. He noted the way the civil service system is set up, the upgrades typically favor newer employees compared to those who have already have worked through all their steps.

The county executive said he had just been advised by the social services commissioner that she recently was able to hire more people than had been hired over the past year. But, he added, "we're nowhere near out of the woods" in resolving the staffing shortage.

One social services department worker said "morale is low" and "our spirit is being crushed."

Garnar said it's a challenge to be fair to county employees while also ensuring that "Broome County government is affordable to taxpayers." He said "I want to do everything I can to retain my employees and to pay them fairly" but he has "a finite amount of resources that I have to do it."

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Contact WNBF News reporter Bob Joseph: bob@wnbf.com or (607) 545-2250. For breaking news and updates on developing stories, follow @BinghamtonNow on Twitter.

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