Last winter was a tough time in the Stafford, Va., home of Paul and Becky Kailing.
Becky had been laid off from her job as secretary at Fairfax Hospital Media Center, and her husband had lost his truck-driving job at GDC Trucking Inc. in Lorton.
Since March, the couple and their two children -- Billy, 5, and Kayla, 4 -- have been living in Westminster with help from the CarrollCounty Department of Social Services.
"We finally moved into a two-bedroom apartment in July," said 27-year-old Becky. "We started receiving food stamps and medical assistance for the children when we came here in March."
The Kailings are just one of about 7,500 Carroll families receiving one or more forms of assistance from the county's Social Services Department.
That's about 6 percent of the countypopulation, which was measured at 123,372 in the 1990 census.
"This is the highest percentage we have had in a long time," said David Ensor, assistant director of social services. "Less than three years ago, under 4 percent of the county's population was receiving some type of social service. Nothing like this. I have been in this businessin this county for almost 25 years, and I have never seen so many people reaching out for help like they are now."
The Kailings, who work together for a private maintenance company in Pennsylvania, bringhome a gross weekly income of $288.
"Our rent is $440 a month andwe receive (rental assistance). And we receive about $186 a month infood stamps," said Becky. "We have to pay for baby sitting because we work at night, and then there are other costs for utilities, clothing and keeping up our 1976 Monte Carlo so we can get to and from work."
Billy was born with his right leg shorter than his left and must wear a leg brace. He takes medication to keep him from having seizures in his sleep. The medical assistance the Kailings receive for Billy and Kayla provides for any medicine they may need as well as routine care.
In July, 1,652 families were receiving community medical assistance in Carroll. By Sept. 1, the number had increased to 1,802.In July, 1,008 families were receiving food stamps, a figure that reached 1,127 by Oct. 1.
The increase in demand for social services has not been limited to Carroll. Over the last 18 months, social service offices throughout the state have seen alarming increases in the need for public assistance.
The situations of those seeking help range from low-income families who cannot make ends meet, to single parents with children, to people who have lost their jobs, social services administrators say.
"What has been unusual has been the unemployment," said Jones. "We have had an estimated 83 people a month coming to us since January 1991 because they do not have a job. This could include a layoff or reduction in hours from full to part time."
As of July 1, nearly 20 percent of the county residents who had been receiving unemployment had exhausted their six-month benefit without finding work, according to data from the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.
"This makes for interesting reading," said Theodora Stephen, manager of DEED's Carroll office. "This means that people who have been laid off have filed and received their unemployment benefits for 26 weeks and have not found another job," she said.
"Typically, the average length of time for a person to beon unemployment was 11 weeks. Since July 1991, that has gone up to 15 weeks."