One-stop shopping for social services makes sense
If all the agencies and organizations that have expressed interest in a Trumbull County one-stop services center follow through, the proposed center should provide those in need of employment and social services with all the help they need to navigate the system and gain self sufficiency. But first, a one-stop center has to have a home and someone to pay the bills.
The former will be easier than the latter.
When the Ohio Department of Human Services and Ohio Bureau of Employment Services were merged into one super agency, there were plenty of promises from Columbus about how the new Ohio Department of Job and Family Services would do a better job of serving the unemployed and families receiving child support payments or on welfare.
ODJFS has been a failure.
Unemployment: One of the disastrous recommendations coming out of the agency called for closing all the employment centers that have helped thousands of unemployed Ohioans get new jobs and training. The face-to-face encounters were to be replaced by an impossible-to-navigate Website and a telephone system -- a poor substitute for the considerable counseling and help an unemployed person and potential employers need.
However, when Jo Ann Davidson was appointed interim director of ODJFS by Gov. Bob Taft earlier this year, she promised that no employment offices would be closed until the one-stop centers were up and running.
Inasmuch as the state is providing limited funding for the one-stop centers' operation, having them up and running soon is problematic at best.
At least in Trumbull County, the commissioners have approved hiring an architect to review possible sites for a center, and a One Stop Committee has been formed to organize the effort.
If such possible participants as the Trumbull County Educational Service Center, Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, Goodwill Industries and the Warren-Trumbull Urban League -- among others -- are willing to pay rent in a one-stop center building, the center can be more than a concept.
While the state will provide some funding in the form of labor exchange and veterans services staff, the intent of the Workforce Investment Act which provides federal money is that local partners will share the costs of a center. For counties with high unemployment and tight budgets -- like those in the Mahoning Valley -- it will take considerable creativity to make the centers function well.
The involvement of private-sector partners like the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce will be essential.