AMHERST, N.Y. – The American Federation of Government Employees, joined by U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), seeks to halt the Social Security Administration’s closure of its field office in Amherst until proper measures have been taken to accurately assess the impact on the local community.
“Were it up to the agency, seniors, the disabled and everyone else seeking assistance from SSA would find out about this when the “for rent” sign went up.” said Steve Serrano, the President of AFGE Local 3342, said during a press conference on Friday at the field office. “But we are here today to make sure everyone is aware of this decision and its impact on our city. We are also here to ask SSA to reconsider this decision and keep the Amherst office open.”
AFGE thanked Rep. Higgins for demanding that SSA act prudently under the language of the 2014 Omnibus spending bill, as the public deserves to be notified of this change in service and shown a concrete justification of the service reduction’s impact on the community.
The 2014 Omnibus language requires that the SSA Commissioner to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees within 90 days regarding a consolidation of a field office. It also states that a public notice of the closure must be distributed, the community be able to provide input, and detailed measures of how the SSA will continue to provide access to its services.
“I am outraged that SSA has decided to close the Amherst SSA office without conducting any analysis of the impact of such closing on the Amherst community. This proposed closing should be suspended until SSA conducts an impact study and schedules hearings in Amherst that allow community members to have input into whether such proposed closing is justified,” said Witold Skwierczynski, the President of AFGE’s National Council of Field Operations Locals. “Such hearings are required by law before a post office can close and should also be required before any SSA office can be closed. After doing the impact study and conducting a community hearing, SSA should reevaluate this office closing.”
The 2010 Census reported that there were 29,000 Amherst residents and more than 197,000 residents in Erie County over the age of 60. These service cuts would negatively restrict the options of thousands of citizens who need answers to eligibility, income and other questions about the Program. For disabled people, closing Social Security offices can create significant hardships as they are required to interact with SSA more often than other beneficiaries.
AFGE demands that the Social Security Administration act transparently and in the public domain to prove its justification and that until these measures are fully executed that the closure of the Amherst Field Office is halted.