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Cattaraugus County’s director of Social Services lauds his staff

LITTLE VALLEY – Despite increased demand for all of the services offered by the Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services, the director sees a positive side to his programs.

Dan Piccioli outlined his annual department numbers for members of the county legislature, showing them that his department is seeing a dramatic increase in the majority of services offered to the people, but he is not concerned with staffing levels.

“We have always done more with less,” he said. “Yes, it is a tired cliche, but it is exactly what we have done.”

His staff, he said, has become very good at finding ways to increase program and personal efficiencies. The process goes back to the department’s mission statement, that it “is committed to helping residents achieve the highest quality of life possible by providing services which sustain, protect and empower families and individuals. These services will be provided by courteous, compassionate and competent staff dedicated to preserving the dignity of clients and each other.”

As budgets for the coming year are being built, Piccioli said DSS is able to do a few things that make the mission complete. “It doesn’t cost anything to be compassionate to those coming in and receiving services,” he said.

While the economy is in poor condition, one program more than any has seen a very high increase, Piccioli said. That program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, has seen caseloads grow 110 percent in Cattaraugus County since 2000, he said. In 2000, DSS had 2,603 cases for food stamps, and 5,684 in 2012.

One area that Piccioli said he is most proud of is the Earned Income Tax Credit, done in conjunction with the United Way and students at St. Bonaventure University. The program has allowed lower income taxpayers to take advantage of the credit. It has saved residents roughly $7 million over the past year. That money, he said, has mostly stayed in the county, giving families more money to provide for their needs.