Failure to hit welfare client work goals could be costly to Mahoning, Ohio

Published: Fri, June 28, 2013 @ 12:07 a.m.

Mahoning leads Ohio’s urban centers in complying with rules

By Peter H. Milliken


Mahoning County leads Ohio’s major urban counties in the percentage of adult welfare cash-assistance recipients who meet work-participation requirements.

The state and county, however, could still lose federal funds because statewide targets haven’t been met, the county’s Job and Family Services director said.

Robert E. Bush Jr., county JFS director, released figures at Thursday’s commissioners’ meeting showing Mahoning County led the state’s eight major urban counties in April in the percentage of adult welfare cash-assistance beneficiaries who met their 30-hour-a-week work requirement.

Of the 1,081 adult beneficiaries needing to meet this requirement, more than 62 percent did so in the county, Bush said. In the county’s two-parent cash assistance households, more than 74 percent of the 128 people required to work did so, Bush reported.

The work requirement has been in effect nationally since welfare reform was enacted during the Clinton administration. Those who don’t meet that requirement lose their cash assistance, Bush said.

Cash-assistance recipients may meet the requirement by engaging in paid or volunteer work or job-training activities, said Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

The federal government has imposed two thresholds for the state to meet. Fifty percent of all adult beneficiaries must meet the work requirement, and 90 percent of adults in two-parent households must meet that requirement.

Because Ohio met the 50-percent standard statewide last year, Johnson said he believes the federal government will waive most of the $135 million in penalties Ohio was facing. He said, however, the state may still face a much smaller penalty for failing to meet the 90 percent requirement.

“Mahoning County has improved its work-participation rate, as have counties across the state, and, thanks to that hard work, we expect to avoid the bulk of this financial penalty,” Johnson said.

To continue payments to beneficiaries, the state would have to make up for any losses in federal funds, Johnson said. Any federal-funding losses would result in cuts to state and county JFS program administration, Johnson added.

Bush said he feared Mahoning could lose up to $13 million. If the county lost the full $13 million, Bush said, “It would be devastating. Our workforce would be substantially reduced” by layoffs.

He said, however, he could not specify the number of employees that would be furloughed at the county’s JFS department. The JFS budget is about $24 million annually, and it has 220 employees.

Factors that impede full compliance with the work requirement are a lack of transportation and child care for beneficiaries, Bush said. Compliance is easier in two-parent households because the adults can take turns working and caring for their children, he added.

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