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Streamlined DCF routine to trim jobs

State workers will continue to handle applications from people seeking food stamps, Medicaid, welfare and other benefits, but about 4,400 state jobs will be cut from the program by 2007, Gov. Jeb Bush said Thursday.

Workers in the Department of Children and Families created the plan to streamline the work that decides who among millions of poor Floridians is eligible for the Economic Self-Sufficiency program.

The department had also considered giving the work to a private company.

But Bush said Thursday that agency Secretary Lucy Hadi told him she had decided to accept the state workers' plan, and he agreed. It should save taxpayers $69.2-million a year, money that will be reinvested to make it easier for poor families to apply for help, according to a draft of the plan.

The self-sufficiency program had about 6,800 workers handling applications. When the plan is fully in place in 2007, it will have about 2,200 workers. Front-line workers dealing with applicants will be replaced by private firms.

More jobs could have been lost if the state decided to turn over the work to a private company, DCF spokesman Bill Spann said.

"This is a win-win solution for both the employees and the customers. Floridians will benefit through improved access and much faster customer service," Spann said.

Applicants for benefits will be able to get help in more places, using more modern technology, Spann said.

The plans were presented to the Center for Efficient Government, the group Bush asked last year to review whether privatization saved the state money.

"We essentially put it to the employees and said, "Hey, how can we do this better?' " Spann said.