Last year, in praising the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for getting former welfare recipients into jobs that are improving their lives, we urged the state not to forget those individuals who still need some form of assistance as they make the transition from hand-out to paycheck.
It now appears that our concerns were warranted. A $300 million allocation from Columbus in 2000 -- the money originated in Washington -- to counties around the state to help fund the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will not be available this fiscal year. Thus, Mahoning County, which used its $600,000 allotment to pay for such things as transportation for former welfare recipients, baby sitting, and other services, will have to find another source of revenue.
As we've argued from the very beginning of the national welfare debate, it is pointless to tell long-time welfare recipients that their benefits will be ending by a certain date, but then fail to ensure that these individuals are trained for employment and have the support system to help them hold on to their jobs.
Without the extra money from the state, counties will only be able to provide monthly welfare benefits under TANF.
Chief executives: We are reminded of a report issued last year by corporate chief executive officers from around the country who came together as the Welfare to Work Partnership. The bottom line of the report was this: It isn't enough to put former welfare recipients to work.
The CEOs contended that government programs are still needed to help with child care, transportation and training, and argued, "Lawmakers should sustain, or ideally, increase resources for a range of programs that help former welfare recipients stay on the job. Partnership companies call for increased emphasis on child care and transportation aid, as they are consistently the biggest challenges facing new workers."
The report recommended that Congress increase tax credits and child-care grants to cover more working parents and also subsidize transportation and housing costs so welfare recipients could get to work more easily and move closer to their jobs.
Obligation: Although the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services insists that the $300 million block of federal money that the agency distributed was a one-time thing -- and that counties had been told that when they spent the money it was gone -- we believe the state still has an obligation to do its part to ensure that welfare recipients aren't stymied in their efforts to forge new lives.
Mahoning County is planning to join with Cuyahoga County and others in filing a lawsuit against the state to prevent ODJFS from discontinuing the distribution of the federal welfare relief dollars. We support the action because we think the state's decision is short-sighted.