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Welfare responsibility changing hands

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm | 1 Comment »
April 28, 2011 5:37 pm

The state’s top official overseeing welfare benefits is out and a temporary replacement is in.

Troy Hutson resigned this week from his post as assistant secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services. He said he’s leaving to be closer to his wife and three school-age children in Seattle and avoid the long commute to Olympia.

Republicans have complained about the state’s management of welfare following KING-5 reports about cash benefits being used in some weird places like strip clubs and casinos. Some, like Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood, have criticized Hutson specifically. And Hutson doesn’t have a new job lined up. So I asked if he was under pressure to leave.

Hutson says no; so does his boss, DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus, who had nothing but good things to say about his tenure.

Hutson said he took the job in 2008 to help the poor, including the single women with children who are the main recipients of federal-state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. He’s proud of doing that, but he cited a shifting political mood as evidenced by the attacks centered around welfare misuse. He said:

The whole conversation in Olympia has changed. Three years ago I think everybody really was concerned with how to deal with the rising caseload (of disadvantaged people coming onto government programs). I think the conversation is now, not just here but nationally, people are beating up on state employees and they’re beating up on the poor and all these other things. It’s not worth the sacrifice to my family to continue to do this.

I think we’re going to decide sort of who we want to be as a state.

Hutson leaves May 11, to be replaced by David Stillman, who moves up from his job running the child support division.

In another reorganization of DSHS, Dreyfus is bulking up the agency’s fraud investigation team and replacing its leader after lawmakers urged more restrictions on welfare benefits.

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