The state’s safety net programs have not been meeting poor Ohioans’ basic needs due to drastic changes in state and federal policies, explained Jack Frech, director of Athens County Job and Family Services. Repressive work policies and benefit reductions have resulted in a loss of more than $570 million a year from the poorest families and the poorest communities in the state, he wrote in testimony he presented Wednesday.
As a result of these policies, poor families have lost out on over $400 million in food assistance. Also, 100,000 recipients, including 60,000 children, have been cut off cash assistance since January 2011.
During Wednesday’s Senate hearing on the goals of the new Office of Human Services Innovation, Frech urged legislators to add a goal that would assure “basic human needs are met for all Ohioans.”
The Office of Human Services Innovation, introduced as H.B. 485, is tasked with ending poverty in Ohio, promoting “individual responsibility” and finding ways for citizens to succeed at work. These are all important things, according to Frech. But he argues it is impossible to fully develop the state’s workforce and thereby end poverty if any Ohioan is hungry or homeless.
Frech testified before the Senate Medicaid, Health & Human Services committee on Wednesday, May 14. He also provided a spreadsheet detailing the cuts to each county’s cash and food assistance payments from January 2011 and January 2014.