LONG BEACH — It only took an hour to empty the first floor office, but the void in the community may be felt for years to come.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services announced last week that its Long Beach Community Services Office will be closing permanently at the end of November, as local staff and DSHS crew moved out of the building on Nov. 19.

The decision to close the Long Beach location at 2601 Pacific Ave. N comes as the department opted not to renew its lease for the building that expires on Nov. 30. In a Nov. 19 press release announcing the closure of the office, sent out the same day as employees moved out of the building, DSHS said it will continue to provide services virtually for area residents, as it has done since the outset of the covid-19 pandemic last spring.

Community Service Office staff at the scene chose not to comment as crew members with DSHS arrived Thursday morning and began loading office furniture and equipment into two waiting moving trucks outside. Since the pandemic began last spring, local staffers have largely been working remotely.

“We’re usually setting up offices and building cubicles,” said Justin Knutson, one of four DSHS staff on hand to handle the move. “It’s been an adjustment for all of us.”

Closing the office will save the department about $8,000 per month in lease costs and facility-related expenses “in a time when Washington is also facing an unprecedented budget shortfall due to the covid-19 pandemic,” DSHS said in the release.

“Closure of the Long Beach [office] aligns with DSHS’ long-term goal of providing services in more efficient, innovative ways, better meeting its customers’ needs and reducing its brick-and-mortar footprint wherever it makes sense to do so,” the department said.

The closure has been in the works for several weeks, with some staff expressing concern to the Observer about their ability to adequately serve clients. Doing so will entail using staffers’ homes for state business.

DSHS is also considering closing roughly another dozen of its physical offices throughout the state over the next several years. Money saved by closing the Long Beach and other offices will go toward reducing the deficit, the department said, as well as retaining “necessary staffing and technology to continue to administer essential services,” such as Basic Food benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The building the Long Beach office has been located in, owned by Swenson & Gaynor LLC, also houses the state Department of Children, Youth & Families and state Employment Security Department. Those departments will continue to operate from the location, DSHS said.

Luke Whittaker is a staff writer for Coast River Business Journal and the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or lwhittaker@crbizjournal.com.

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