Levy County residents who normally turn to the local Department of Children and Families in Chiefland will no longer have that luxury next year.
The office will close its doors on March 31, 2014. Residents of Levy, Gilchrist and Dixie County will then have to access their accounts online or travel to branches in Lake City or Gainesville in order to receive assistance or apply for aid.
John Harrell, spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families, said the website has been in place for almost eight years and has helped create a more effective system.
The changes help increase efficiency and accessibility for the DCF and will help save Florida taxpayers millions of dollars, Harrell said.
Not all residents approve of the local branch’s closing.
Kay Stephens, a worker at the Chiefland Senior Center, said many of the residents in Levy County are not happy with the changes.
“They’re upset,” Stephens said. “They’re used to going there to get help when they need it.”
Despite the closing of the Levy County branch, Harrell said the department has taken steps to ease the transition for residents.
“We’ve formed partnerships with 49 different agencies that are providing computers for people to apply for economic assistance,” Harrell said. “We’ve basically gone from one center to 49.”
Stephens said that traveling to an office in another city like Gainesville may create issues for seniors.
“It’s hard for the elderly to get to Gainesville,” she said. “We have transportation to get there, but you don’t know how long it is going to take.”