May 21, 2007

A big hole in the safety net: Ohio’s TANF funding, Part 1

With the implementation of the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, cash assistance caseloads have dropped dramatically as thousands of welfare recipients have taken jobs. While many of those former recipients have successfully left the welfare rolls and have improved financially as a result, some remain in poverty. In the first five years after welfare reform, caseloads dropped dramatically, but they have remained at the same level in the past five years—meaning there are people that just can’t get out of poverty through this system.

There are 130,000 children being served by the cash assistance program in Ohio. To put this number into perspective:

· If they were all in one place they would constitute the population of Youngstown, and would outnumber the populations of 67 of Ohio’s 88 counties; and
· If they held hands and formed a line it would stretch from Columbus to the Ohio River in Portsmouth, nearly 100 miles away.

The most dramatic change in the demographics of clients served by cash assistance has been the increase in “child only” cases. These are situations in which children are not living with their parents but rather with relative caregivers, usually grandparents. In these cases, as the name implies, only the children are eligible for benefits. This is now the most common family situation for children receiving cash benefits.

The average family of two on the OWF program receives only about $320 a month in cash assistance. Ohio must increase the cash assistance benefits to an adequate level. These 130,000 children live in families who comply with all of the strict rules of Welfare Reform, yet the benefits they receive are not enough to meet basic human needs.

--Jack Frech, Director

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