Dec 12, 2014

Ohio woman kicked off welfare for not reporting she was in a coma

Kimberly Thompson, 43, says she was lying in a hospital bed when she found out that she would no longer receive government assistance. The letter from the county shocked her: "They basically cut me off of benefits for not reporting I was in a coma," she says.

When Thompson woke up, she learned that her cash assistance through the Ohio Works First program as well as her food stamp benefits had been terminated—more than $700 per month in total. Administrators said the county imposed a sanction because she had failed to complete the mandatory work and training requirement for receipt of government assistance. Thompson called the Franklin County, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services to tell them she was in the hospital. A worker there told her she had two days to verify her hospitalization. Frail and unable to move—she'd had seven toes amputated and says she lost some cognitive capacity—she was unable to get to the county office.

Advocates for the poor in Ohio say that situations like Thompson's are not uncommon as a several-year-old effort to impose strict work requirements on state welfare and food stamp recipients has led to thousands of families losing aid. Anti-poverty advocates note that even as the state is moving to bolster the medical safety net through Medicaid expansion, it has dramatically slashed its welfare rolls since 2011, shrinking the program from 90,000 cases to 60,000 in the last four years. Most of the remaining people relying on cash assistance are children who often live with grandparents.

"The way most counties meet the work requirement is to throw people off," said John Frech, the director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services. Frech has been critical of the state trends. His county is unusual in that its welfare program has maintained similar caseload levels since 2011 even as it has connected more of those on the program with jobs and training. "Ohio made this a success from the state's perspective by throwing families off of a program that they need. Rather than working to help poor families, we've left families in a terrible situation."

Read more from NBC News' In Plain Sight.

Dec 3, 2014

Ohio Senate Bill 382 will improve the lives of poor non-custodial parents

Provisions should be extended to children and caretakers
Ohio’s Senate Bill 382, introduced by Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) and Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland), would make positive changes for Ohioans living near the poverty level. It would, for the first time, guarantee a standard of living of at least the poverty level for non-custodial parents.

Jack Frech, Director of Athens County Job and Family Services, voiced his support for this Senate Bill in a letter sent to every Ohio senator last week, with the request that the same provision be extended to the children and their caretakers. 

“We support this bill, because we feel strongly that no one should be forced to have an income that will not meet their basic human needs,” Frech said. “It is encouraging that with bi-partisan support this bill will help establish this precedent. Now, we need to immediately offer that same guarantee to the children and caretakers of these obligors.”


Dec 1, 2014

Campaign shines spotlight on poor during holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year, for some, while others struggle mightily throughout the holiday season to meet basic needs and put food on the table.

So once again this year, anti-poverty advocates are highlighting the needs of those struggling with poverty in Athens County, southeast Ohio and across the state with the HardTimesOhio campaign.

Members of the faith community have joined housing and human-services advocates in showing the toll the "low-wage economy" is having on individuals and families across the state, according to a press release. The new effort can be found at www.hardtimesohio.com.

Involved in that effort is Athens County Job & Family Services.

Read more in The Athens NEWS.

Nov 17, 2014

Bus route expansion to include Chauncey, Rt. 13

An Athens city bus route expansion, made possible through a state grant and matching local dollars, will for the first time offer regular public transit in the village of Chauncey and along Route 13, further connecting riders to an already robust public transit system.

“We hope this new service proves valuable to the entire community, especially low-income residents who live in villages just outside the City of Athens,” said Michael Lachman, transportation services manager for Athens Public Transit, which is administered by Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action. “Many cannot afford to live in Athens due to the high cost of housing. This expansion offers a way for these workers to get to the jobs they need in an affordable way. It will offer a lifeline to many needy households in our corner of Appalachia.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation awarded the $34,806 grant to APT and HAPCAP through the Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) project, a competitive federal grant that’s intended to improve access to jobs and educational opportunities, particularly among low-income residents.

With matching dollars from Athens County Job and Family Services and the city of Athens, the funds will replace the existing Route 5 loop through Athens and The Plains with a pair of synchronized route loops that include the outlying village of Chauncey and parts of Route 13.

Nov 3, 2014

Cash benefits have fallen by more than 20 percent in most states and continue to erode

Cash assistance benefits for the nation’s poorest families with children fell again in purchasing power in 2014 and are now at least 20 percent below their 1996 levels in 38 states, after adjusting for inflation.  ...

For 99 percent of TANF recipients nationally, the purchasing power of their benefits is below 1996 levels, after adjusting for inflation.

As the country moves past the economic downturn and public coffers regain strength, states should halt the erosion of TANF benefits and begin restoring the purchasing power lost over the past 18 years.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.