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Published: 3/10/2005

Lucas County has $3M for low-income job assistance

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lucas County will distribute about $3 million starting in the next few weeks to programs designed to help low-income people find jobs.

At the beginning of the year, Lucas County Job and Family Services found itself with more money than it expected for such programs because of a change in how the agency is allowed to distribute federal dollars.

At the county commissioners' direction, agency officials put together a quick application process so social service organizations could make pitches about how they would use the money. The county will be finalizing contracts over the next two to three weeks with about 55 organizations that will receive from about $6,000 to $95,000.

"These dollars are critical to meet the needs of agencies that deliver services to citizens, particularly to at-risk populations or people who are vulnerable," said Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of commissioners.

The only hitch is that the programs might not last more than one year because there's no guarantee the money will be available next year.

Commissioner Pete Gerken said if the county doesn't spend the money by June, it would go back to the state and wouldn't be available to help local people.

"We were able to find this money was available, assess some short-term needs, quickly outreach to the community, and get the money out the door between now and June 30," Mr. Gerken said.

Isaac Palmer, director of Lucas County Job and Family Services, said most agencies will receive the amount they requested as long as the programs they planned to offer complied with federal requirements. He said officials wanted to use the money to help local people, but they also wanted solid ideas to be presented. "It sounds like a flat-out giveaway, but we were encouraged by the proposals," Mr. Palmer said. "In most situations, we wish we could sustain them, but we can't."

The money will be used for programs that serve people within 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, the maximum income would be around $37,000.

Craig Gebers, of the job placement and worker assessment firm Network, said his agency expects to receive about $87,000 for a three-month trial program to help people understand how poverty has impacted them and how they might change their circumstances.

"I think the service may benefit individuals who are currently out of work and need a jump start to look at life a little differently and develop a plan," he said.

Commissioner Maggie Thur-ber said she's impressed that Job and Family Services became aware that extra money would be available and that it was able to quickly identify agencies that could provide assistance to local families.

"It really appears to be meeting some needs in the community," she said.

Contact Dale Emch at:

daleemch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6061.



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