Congressional District 2 candidate Gwen Graham came to Quincy last Tuesday, August 5th to meet and greet her potential constituents, and she brought along a Floridian who has quite a reputation at winning elections: her father, former Florida senator and governor, Bob Graham.
Gwen Graham met with Gadsden County leaders in political, religious, and social realms that included the young, not-so-young and seniors in a roundtable discussion of the negative impact of the no-notice-given by the federal government’s closing of Gadsden’s Social Security Office (SSO) last March. Graham said she supports re-opening the Quincy SSO office.
Quincy Commissioner Keith Dowdell was first out of the gate with his concern over elderly constituents. “These are economically-deprived people and transportation is a very big issue. I want to understand why the office was closed and why no notice was given,” said Dowdell.
County Commissioner Brenda Holt concurred: “We have a very large population of the elderly. They have no transportation and no economic means to do so.
We (the county commission) offered them free space, at the hospital or the former Florida Highway Patrol Station. Everyone jumped in to help (once we learned about this) to get them to stay. We said, ‘if you can’t stay, train us to take care of our people.’ They said that no matter what was done, they still were closing.”
The Social Security Administration made arrangements after the fallout from the closing to have the Quincy library hold computer hours for video interaction with social security agents, but it is little-used. “They have the computers, but they’re little-used and close at 3:00 p.m.,” said Holt.
“If they miss a deadline, they lose their benefits,” said one spokesperson.
Diane Williams-Cox said the travel to the Tallahassee office was ridiculous. “We need some fire - Congresswoman Corinne Brown took up our issue and went to D.C. to present our problem,” she said.
Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young said that the closing should never have happened. “No one knew about the closure coming. The video opportunity (at the library) is only being used by about four people daily. There are 54 or so people daily at the Tallahassee office. This really affects the poor and the elderly,” said Young.
“Our seniors need our support,” said NAACP representative Sam Palmer.
82-year-old Nora James said she remembers Bob Graham’s campaign logo of ‘Graham-Crackers,’ and wants a return to the caring of that era.
Commissioner Holt broke in again, saying, the federal government didn’t expect protests, and Gadsden folks protested. “They don’t understand that the elderly and children aren’t getting benefits,” said Holt, who said the Tallahassee office was out on Apalachee Parkway, which is hard to get to by bus service because it only goes to the bus terminal.
The local SSA office had 10 employees. Former city manager Jack McLean said there wasn’t much savings in the closing, and if one is at social security age, it’s an important issue. “If you miss a deadline, you lose at least 10% of your benefits. This is not a computer-literate county,” said McLean.
Dowdell concurred, saying “seniors don’t want to deal with (these types of) problems; the death rates will climb.”
Senator Graham suggested that the county commission create a resolution listing its needs, and Gwen Graham said it’s easier to prevent something from going wrong if you know about it in advance. She committed to having a positive relationship with federal agencies if she’s elected. “I will take up the flag for Gadsden and North Florida,” said Gwen. “The responsibility of Congress is to be the voice and advocate (for the people).
Gwen Graham told listeners that the issue is a human issue. “Social Security and education are vital to our future. We need to get back to true public service," said Graham.