Feature, Video (Ohio)
Seth Freed Wessler
December 5, 2014
Link to story
Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
“Imposing strict and unmoving work requirements has been one of the more popular methods for reducing caseloads,” Schott says.
In Ohio, the TANF caseload has fallen by more than 20 percent from its pre-recession levels and by more than 30 percent since 2011, following a slight caseload increase during the worst points in the recession.
In Columbus’ Franklin County, the total number of people on the program has fallen by 40 percent since 2011. The declines have allowed the county to make significant gains in its work participation rate. In January 2011, Franklin County had a 21 percent work participation rate. In September of this year, that had grown to 60 percent.
“Counties feel they have no other choice but to cut the number of people on the program,” said Tara Britton of Ohio’s Center for Community Solutions, a nonpartisan think tank. Britton says that in general counties were left with little choice, pressured to increase the ratio of welfare recipients who are working, but facing significant state budget cuts for supportive programs like transportation subsidies and child care that make it possible for poor parents to work.
“The problem is that many counties felt they did not have the resources to actually support people to find work,” Britton said. “So to meet the work participation levels, they’ve stopped people from getting onto the program in the first place, or removed people from the program who are already on.”
In August, after leaving the hospital, Thomson brought her case to The Legal Aid Society of Columbus. An attorney appealed her sanction before a state hearing officer.
“We see not a few clients who lose benefits for bureaucratic reasons,” says Kathleen C. McGarvey, a managing attorney with the Legal Aid Society. “For individuals trying to navigate Ohio Works First, the administrative hurdles are huge.”
The hearing officer issued a decision days later ordering the county to reinstate her benefits.