Jun 21, 2007

Budget Blues: Shortcomings of Ohio's proposed budget

The new state budget includes some program expansions and improvements that will be very beneficial to struggling Ohio families. An increase in the income eligibility for Medicaid to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will help thousands of uninsured children. An increase in child care provider payments will help many deserving child care providers. Expanding child care subsidies and early learning programs for families up to 200 percent of the poverty level will be a great benefit for children and their parents. Subsidies for food banks, home energy assistance and a variety of special earmarked programs will provide valuable resources for low-income Ohioans. With the support of the governor and the General Assembly, life will be a little better for many Ohioans.

But there is another side. Who lost so these programs could grow? Unfortunately, lawmakers have chosen to help the needy at the expense of the even more needy. While expanding eligibility for Medicaid for children up to 300 percent of poverty, the General Assembly rejected the governor's proposal to restore eligibility for the parents of children between 90 percent and 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. While they'll offer assistance to children in families making more than $50,000 a year, they deny help to parents making less than $15,000. I'm not sure why lawmakers imagined that the children in families below the poverty level don't suffer when parents can't get health care or are forced to pay out of pocket and face destitution.

All of the child care and other program expansions were funded out of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families block grant. While they are all beneficial, these expansions do not resolve the most severe problems that the lowest income families face. Families who must rely on TANF cash assistance are forced to live on an income of only 50 percent of the FPL. Ohio has consistently chosen to provide a grossly inadequate benefit level despite a wealth of available TANF funds. The first priority for the use of TANF funds must be to meet the basic needs for our poorest children--and they are not doing that. Ohio's poorest families will pay so those with more resources can benefit.

My concern is not whether the program expansions are needed or worthy. They are. However, it seems that the less fortunate have been forced to continue to suffer in order to pay for these expansions. Unfortunately, this decision was politically easier than asking those who are already comfortable to sacrifice more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although I live in Summit county, it is pretty much the same. I am currently struggling with OWF. I am a full time student, however I attend classes online so I can stay at home with my 3 month old son. I was required to take a 30 hr./week class to fulfill OWF requirements, because online schools are not recognized by Ohio. Meanwhile, my rent is $650/month, plus all other bills, however I only receive $400/month. While going to this class, my grades dropped severely, to a D-. If I were to fulfill the requirements for OWF and work 30 hrs./week, I would need to cut my classes, but then I wouldn't receive financial aid, so I couldn't attend school. I am going for a 2 year degree, but getting it in one. Its like they want me to quit school to work a low paying job that will not pay all the bills and keep me in the system instead of just helping me out for 1 year so I can get out of poverty.