While many area families have had to learn to do more with less during the recent economic downturn, so has the staff of the Union County Department of Jobs & Family Services (UCDJFS).

While many area families have had to learn to do more with less during the recent economic downturn, so has the staff of the Union County Department of Jobs & Family Services (UCDJFS).

Director Joe Float said the state cut his agency's operating budget by $400,000 for the fiscal year ending July 1. Still, Float and his staff have found ways to make sure the needs of children and families in the county were met -- without any staff layoffs.

How have they done it? It has been equal parts financial juggling and belt-tightening.

"We have moved money," Float said. "We have absorbed through attrition. We have been able to cut some of our exposures and salaries."

The UCDJFS staff of 60 hasn't really had a choice. While the agency's budget has been cut the demands for its services have increased dramatically.

"The number of people who come in our door, year to date, from last year, has doubled," Float said. "In a one-year period we have seen a two-fold increase in the number of new applicants for welfare benefits. That's one ramification of the soft economy in Union County."

In addition to the demand for food stamp and cash benefits, Float said the Union County Employment Resource Center is equally busy. The center has state-funded resources to assist unemployed and displaced workers in improving their job skills.

"We are currently underwriting today, as we speak, in real time, 47 adults in various types of educational opportunities in health care, education, food services, heavy equipment operation, all very valid types of employment opportunities. We have approximately 800 visits to our Employment Resource Center every month."

Float said that while his agency faces continuing financial challenges, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel.

"The bright light for us is the stimulus money," he said. "The stimulus money is really focusing on employment and we are actually seeing that money coming our way. We're just putting that into play. We already have over 20 kids out on job sites out in the community through the summer."