TRUMBULL COUNTY Money loss tightens plan

The state Legislature slashed program funding.
WARREN -- Fewer people will be eligible for emergency help with rent, heating bills and car repairs under tightened guidelines for a set of programs administered by the Trumbull County Department of Jobs and Family Services.
"It is a good program, but unfortunately we don't have the money to do it anymore," said Thomas Mahoney, JFS director.
The Prevention, Retention and Contingency Plan covered a variety of one-time give-away programs to help people get off welfare and other public assistance, or to keep them from getting on.
Previous payment: A maximum of $1,800 per person per year was given to help people fix cars, buy work clothes, pay rent, or purchase household items, such as refrigerators.
It also awarded $1,500 cash payments to people who stayed in a job for six months and $200 payments to people who got their general equivalency diplomas.
About 7,000 received help through these programs in the past 18 months, Mahoney said.
The $5.4 million earmarked for the Trumbull County Prevention, Retention and Contingency Plan during this period also included grants to 18 local nonprofit agencies, including $254,000 to the Warren-Tumbull Urban League and $199,000 to Youthbuild of Trumbull County.
The Legislature gave no money for the Prevention, Retention and Contingency Plan this year, but the county department found $700,000 from other state and federal sources, Mahoney said.
This week, county commissioners approved the guidelines, designed by JFS to slash the scope of the Prevention, Retention and Contingency plan programs.
The changes: A family must now be at 150 percent of the federal poverty level to get benefits. Previously, a family earning twice the federal poverty level was eligible.
For a family of four, this means the cutoff level has been reduced from $2,942 a month to $2,207.
"This program helped a lot of middle class people," Mahoney said.
As well, the maximum annual benefit to an individual was reduced from $1,800 to $1,000, clothing expenses were limited to $200, car repair was limited to a maximum of $750.
Funds for the program are still likely to run out midyear, Mahoney said.

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