Fed warrant closes Safety Net; hundreds in limbo

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Federal agents served a search warrant on the non-profit agency Safety Net of Oregon two weeks ago for suspected mismanagement of client funds. That put many elderly and disabled clients in danger of losing their only source of income.

And many don’t even know it.

Safety Net of Oregon closed suddenly, leaving hundreds of vulnerable clients even more vulnerable, March 17, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Safety Net of Oregon closed suddenly, leaving hundreds of vulnerable clients even more vulnerable, March 17, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

All of Safet Net’s clients must sign up with a different payee service before their benefits are suspended April 1. That may not be easy.

Many of the clients who use Safety Net of Oregon rely on the non-profit to help pay their bills and cut them a check for any remaining money. Now, though, everything has changed.

With the payee it’s supposed to be that all your bills are paid so you don’t have to worry on the first of the month.

Relaxing is just about the last thing Safety Net users will do since federal officer from the Inspector General’s office seized computers and more earlier this month. A sign on the door reads, “Closed for good. Thanks for the memories.”

The sign told clients to go to their local Social Security office for information on a new payee. But by the time most people see the sign, it will likely be too late.

A woman named Susanne — who did not want her face shown — said she understands the challenges in store for clients. She said she receives Social Security benefits, and like Safety Net users, must use a payee to manage her modest checks.

Many of Safet Net’s users are also clients of Multnomah County’s Aging and Disability Services. Executive Director Lee Girard told KOIN 6 News the federal agents sent out letters and made phone calls.

“Many people aren’t going to be getting their mail or getting a phone call or if they do they can’t go into the office or they don’t have the ability to advocate for themselves,” Girard said.

Safety Net’s users have four days to transfer to a different payee.

Calls to the Social Security Administration for comment were not returned by the time of this report.

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