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Health & Welfare plans closure of 9 offices, lay off of 126

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced April 6 that it would close nine of its 29 offices statewide within the next two months and lay off 126 workers, saving $7 million.

Offices in American Falls, Bellevue, Bonners Ferry, Emmett, Jerome, McCall, Orofino, Rupert and Soda Springs will be closing, the agency announced in a news release.

Leased office space in St. Maries will also be reduced. Public assistance application work conducted there will be shifted to the Coeur d’Alene office, though child welfare and mental health services will continue operating out of the St. Maries office in a smaller rented space.

The agency said the closures were based on evaluations of client traffic at the offices, the ability to deliver services from other locations and the savings potential of office sites.

Of the layoffs, 21 will be workers at the closed offices, while 32 will come from Boise administrative offices and 73 from other regional offices or institutions.

According to the news release, most people visit Health and Welfare offices for public assistance services. People can apply for assistance at any of the remaining 20 Health and Welfare offices and continue accessing assistance applications through the DHW Web site or by calling the Idaho CareLine at 2-1-1.

The agency predicted that people would see longer wait times for phone responses, application processing and in-person meetings with staff. It said crisis management would be the top priority, stabilizing individual families who have run out of food or are at risk of homelessness.

The laid-off workers were notified April 6. Most will continue work through May 18.

The closures should be completed by the end of May.

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