May 30, 2007

A big hole in the safety net: Ohio’s TANF funding, Part 4

Determining eligibility

The state spends millions of dollars determining eligibility for OWF. Ohio has one of the most sophisticated means testing systems in the country. Families are screened through a centralized computer system. Computer matches are run against other financial database systems as well, including reports of new hires from employers. Social Security, Internal Revenue Service, Unemployment and Workers Compensation benefits and banking records are all cross matched with public assistance data.

Recipients are required to present a Social Security number for all household members. They must also furnish written proof of identity, age, citizenship, residence, income, pregnancy, disability, or termination of employment.

Eligibility must be re-determined every six months for benefits to continue. Recipients are required to report any change in status (such as employment, household number, etc.) within 10 days.

If they are physically able, adult recipients are expected to meet a 30-hour per week work requirement.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services closely monitors the performance of the counties in their compliance with federal and state rules regarding the OWF program. (The only exception is the law requiring counties to offer all OWF recipients and applicants the opportunity to register to vote. There is no monitoring of compliance with this law.)

Ohio goes to great lengths to verify that the 130,000 children that remain on OWF cash assistance with their families are indeed poor and need the assistance. Nevertheless, we still provide benefits that rise to only 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. We are spending only about 25 percent of the TANF block grant on cash assistance. We are neglecting the needs of these families on purpose.

--Jack Frech, Director

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