As an essential service to the community, the Wayne Township Trustee Office has remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, although our ways of encountering our clients have had to change somewhat. For people looking for emergency financial assistance with their basic necessities such as shelter, utility, food, medication, transportation and burial assistance, we have been conducting business almost exclusively over the phone, and we have been using the US postal service to get necessary documents signed and checks into the hands of landlords and utility companies.
In addition to those services listed above, we also have another important program that has remained in operation throughout the lockdown, and that is the Representative Payee Service. Through that program we serve clients who are receiving retirement or disability payments from the Social Security Administration and who need help managing and keeping their expenses within their financial means.
The payee program is one of the least known, yet one of the most important services we offer. While payee clients often qualify for emergency township assistance because their income falls below the federal poverty limit, we find that with very careful money management they can avoid needing emergency township assistance and can make ends meet on their existing income. Our first priority is to make sure bills for the client’s basic necessities like rent, utilities, food, and medical expenses are paid. A payee program participants’ income is deposited directly into a Wayne Township bank account. Then our staff, using the participant’s own money, pays the client’s bills. Once those bills are paid, we try to put some of the client’s money into savings for emergencies and still be able to give them some spending money. This is a difficult task at times since their income often barely covers basic necessities.
Our payee staff tries to get to know each payee client personally and to advocate for them, if necessary, both in the financial arena and in their quality of life. Numerous times over the years our staff has resolved problems for payee clients that they were unable work out themselves. The staff also looks for free or low-cost programs to recommend to the program’s participants that enhance their quality of life. The township provides this service at no charge to the client. More than just a “bill paying service,” the payee program’s staff gives clients a touchstone where they can feel that people actually care about them. It’s a win-win-win for the client, the township and the taxpayer.
This month saw the retirement of one of our most valued members of the payee program staff. Gwendolyn Carpenter, who had been with the township since 2002, took leave of her post in the payee department where she had been instrumental in touching and improving the lives of hundreds of clients over the years. Her gentle and patient demeanor gave her clients a true home here. She was loved and appreciated by them and by her co-workers. We wish to thank Gwen for setting the tone for compassionate service in the Wayne Township Trustee Office Payee Program and for coming up with the WTTO motto: “Committed to the Challenge and Dedicated to the Cause.”