Ohio residents still have time to have an impact on the proposed state budget and can call on state leaders to take a balanced approach to the budget instead of just making further cuts to programs that help children and poor people.
That was one of the key messages of the One Ohio Now public meeting held at the Athens Community Center on Tuesday, May 24. The meeting featured representatives of local social service agencies, unions and a school district, all talking about how the proposed budget will affect the people they serve.
“This is not a done deal,” said Jack Frech, director of Athens County Job and Family Services. Frech encouraged people to call or write their state senators and representatives, as well as Governor John Kasich and to let them know how they feel about the current budget proposal.
Frech explained during the meeting that Athens County Job and Family Services has already faced numerous cuts in state funding in the last ten years in addition to the huge cut in funding that is in the current budget proposal.
“We were in a bad place to begin with,” Frech said. “We’ve had to cut our programs year after year.” The current state budget proposal calls for reducing the Athens County agency’s state funding by more than $2 million, a cut of nearly 20 percent. Across the state, the budget proposal would result in significant cuts to Job and Family Services offices and decimate many of the programs that were put in place to help people receiving public assistance become independent.
For Athens County Job and Family Services, the cut would likely mean additional program cuts or reductions, along with more staff layoffs.
In 2001, Athens County Job and Family Services had 170 employees. Due to budget cuts over the last 10 years, the agency is now down to 104 employees and that number will decrease again if the current budget proposal is approved.
Athens County Job and Family Services staff member Shawn Stover said during the Tuesday meeting that it is hard for the agency employees to see state funding cut from programs that their clients need to survive. The employees know that more and more local families need help, and are frustrated that there are fewer programs and fewer staff members available to assist these families.
“It’s unbearable. It’s intolerable. I can’t stand it,” Stover said.
Additional blog posts will include more information from the One Ohio Now meeting.