By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some North Philadelphia residents were surprised today to find their local Social Security Administration office shuttered, the result of a tighter federal budget and sequestration.
Since October, the Social Security Administration has closed three of its offices in the Philadelphia region: Jenkintown, Woodland Avenue, and, as of last week, the office at 15th and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
Residents in the area were still trickling in this morning, shocked to learn that the office is closed.
“I think it’s a terrible injustice,” said Evelyn Gray (top photo), who lives nearby. “I think they have no concern for the seniors. Sometimes seniors are afraid to complain, but we need to have some meetings to get the Social Security office back here.”
“I mean, it’s always been in the neighborhood here,” says Kevin Hall, who was hoping to get help after receiving a letter from the administration earlier this week. “It’s just walking distance from my home. I guess I need to go downtown.”
The office served about 100 people a day, roughly 26,000 a year, and now all of these people will be redirected to the downtown location at 15th and JFK Boulevard, in center city.
“Half the time seniors don’t have carfare, they are in wheelchairs, they have canes,” notes Gray. “So who’s going to take them? We need this location for the neighborhood.”
Daryl Gardner is another of those seniors who say they need the location. He uses a cane because of deteriorating joints, and already catches two buses to get to the Social Security Office on Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
(Gregg:) “Will it be harder for you to get downtown?”
(Gardner:) “Yes, the traffic jam, yes, the transferring of buses, yes. The added expense — I need to save money.”
“We got notified a couple of months ago that the office would be closing,” says Kenneth Scott, president of the Beech Companies, which own the buildings where the Social Security Administration office in North Philadelphia had been located.
“They said the budget was cut by $1 billion for the Social Security Administration — I take it that cut was across the country,” he says. “This is a vital community service, and this office has been here over ten years.”
The Social Security Administration responded to KYW Newsradio‘s request for information today with a written statement saying, “Tighter budget, including cuts due to sequestration, have exacerbated our ability to serve members of the public who need our services, resulting in longer waiting times.” The statement added that no employees lost their jobs as a result of the consolidation.
The agency claims the cuts mean reduced staff, which will lead to longer waits at offices and on phones, for claims processing and for hearings with the administration.
Scott says he’s hoping to mobilize residents to reopen the location.
“It’s a disservice to the community not to have this office open,” says Scott. “People have been calling their government officials to alert them. This is not just important to this neighborhood, but all across the city.”