Dec 12, 2014

Ohio woman kicked off welfare for not reporting she was in a coma

Kimberly Thompson, 43, says she was lying in a hospital bed when she found out that she would no longer receive government assistance. The letter from the county shocked her: "They basically cut me off of benefits for not reporting I was in a coma," she says.

When Thompson woke up, she learned that her cash assistance through the Ohio Works First program as well as her food stamp benefits had been terminated—more than $700 per month in total. Administrators said the county imposed a sanction because she had failed to complete the mandatory work and training requirement for receipt of government assistance. Thompson called the Franklin County, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services to tell them she was in the hospital. A worker there told her she had two days to verify her hospitalization. Frail and unable to move—she'd had seven toes amputated and says she lost some cognitive capacity—she was unable to get to the county office.

Advocates for the poor in Ohio say that situations like Thompson's are not uncommon as a several-year-old effort to impose strict work requirements on state welfare and food stamp recipients has led to thousands of families losing aid. Anti-poverty advocates note that even as the state is moving to bolster the medical safety net through Medicaid expansion, it has dramatically slashed its welfare rolls since 2011, shrinking the program from 90,000 cases to 60,000 in the last four years. Most of the remaining people relying on cash assistance are children who often live with grandparents.

"The way most counties meet the work requirement is to throw people off," said John Frech, the director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services. Frech has been critical of the state trends. His county is unusual in that its welfare program has maintained similar caseload levels since 2011 even as it has connected more of those on the program with jobs and training. "Ohio made this a success from the state's perspective by throwing families off of a program that they need. Rather than working to help poor families, we've left families in a terrible situation."

Read more from NBC News' In Plain Sight.

Dec 3, 2014

Ohio Senate Bill 382 will improve the lives of poor non-custodial parents

Provisions should be extended to children and caretakers
Ohio’s Senate Bill 382, introduced by Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) and Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland), would make positive changes for Ohioans living near the poverty level. It would, for the first time, guarantee a standard of living of at least the poverty level for non-custodial parents.

Jack Frech, Director of Athens County Job and Family Services, voiced his support for this Senate Bill in a letter sent to every Ohio senator last week, with the request that the same provision be extended to the children and their caretakers. 

“We support this bill, because we feel strongly that no one should be forced to have an income that will not meet their basic human needs,” Frech said. “It is encouraging that with bi-partisan support this bill will help establish this precedent. Now, we need to immediately offer that same guarantee to the children and caretakers of these obligors.”

Dec 1, 2014

Campaign shines spotlight on poor during holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year, for some, while others struggle mightily throughout the holiday season to meet basic needs and put food on the table.

So once again this year, anti-poverty advocates are highlighting the needs of those struggling with poverty in Athens County, southeast Ohio and across the state with the HardTimesOhio campaign.

Members of the faith community have joined housing and human-services advocates in showing the toll the "low-wage economy" is having on individuals and families across the state, according to a press release. The new effort can be found at

Involved in that effort is Athens County Job & Family Services.

Read more in The Athens NEWS.