In response to your Sept. 29 editorial “Bad math”: Ohio’s cash assistance, or welfare, program is called Ohio Works First. But for years, Ohioans who collected cash assistance were not provided the intensive, meaningful job training and work experience they needed to become self-sufficient.
The results were calamitous. Many families never received the tools necessary to break the cycle of generational poverty.
Families whose cash assistance expired were left with little or no income and few prospects for employment. Ohio faced $135 million in federal fines for failing to meet welfare-to-work requirements.
Confronted by this dire outlook, Gov. John Kasich charged me with leading the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to take aggressive steps to change the culture of the Ohio Works First program.
We now require individuals to complete an initial skills assessment. We launched a Web-based attendance system, so individuals are held accountable and get credit for hours worked.
We hired additional hearing officers to ensure that individuals who are sanctioned or suspended from the program receive a fair and timely hearing.
Individuals who fail to fulfill their work requirement are suspended. However, suspensions account for only a third of those who leave the program. Individuals can return to the program after they complete their suspension.
Our ultimate goal is to provide appropriate and productive work activities in every county, so that individuals can polish their skills, make connections, and build their resumes. We have increased the percentage of adults engaged in work activity from 25 percent in December, 2010, to 50 percent in July, 2012.
Welfare-to-work activities are required by federal law, not to deny benefits to families in need, but to ensure that cash-assistance recipients receive the training necessary to find a job and move out of poverty.
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Columbus