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Ohio's failure to act could cost millions



Published: Thu, January 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



It's bad enough that the state of Ohio is in danger of losing more than $100 million in federal money because the administration of Gov. Bob Taft was slow in launching job-training programs to address the needs of the growing number of unemployed.

But what makes this situation even more egregious is the fact that Ohio's own United States senator, Mike DeWine, was one of the architects of the federal Workforce Investment Act that resulted in the state receiving $131.4 million in July 2000 and $130 million in 2001.

But while Republican DeWine won't criticize the administration of Republican Gov. Taft, the U.S. Department of Labor isn't pulling any punches.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, labor department officials have warned the state that it could lose $110 million because the money hasn't been spent.

The Dispatch quoted from a letter from Bryon Zuidema, a regional administrator in Chicago, to Tom Hayes, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services: "Low expenditures, low participant enrollments, high unemployment claims, plus numerous other data, indicate that there are an ever-increasing number of Ohioans that are in need of WIA services but are not being served."

Hayes, however, told the newspaper that his staff is working to correct the problems that have undermined the successful launch of the job-training and other services and insisted that Ohio will not lose the federal money because every cent will be spent.

Upheavals: While it is true that the department of job and family services has experienced major upheavals since it came into existence as a super agency through the merging of the Ohio Department of Human Services and the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services, it must be pointed out that the Workforce Investment Act became law in 1998.

Before the enactment, there were extensive congressional hearings in which DeWine played a pivotal role.

In other words, states had ample warning that the federal government intended to adopt a one-stop system for job training to replace the dozens of programs in existence.

Ohio should have been prepared to hit the ground running once the bill became law.

According to the Dispatch, among the 10 states with the most job-training money available during the program's first year, which ran from July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2001, only New York spent a lower percentage of its funding. Of the $131.4 million available for program year 2000, Ohio spent a meager $59.3 million.

Changing workplace: That's unacceptable, given Ohio's current economic condition and the fact that many Ohioans who have lost their jobs would benefit greatly from the kind of training envisioned by Congress to help them re-enter the changing workplace.

Gov. Taft, who is running for re-election this year for a second four-year term, must know that he is sitting on a potential political time bomb. If the federal government takes back the $110 million, Taft will be forced to defend his administration against charges of incompetence.




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