By Robert Higgs
Gov. John Kasich will propose new approaches for Ohio's welfare programs in the budget he unveils Monday, targeting teens and young adults as part of an effort to intervene at an early age to stop poverty.
The changes would require individual counties, which administer the assistance programs across the state, to designate a lead entity that will be responsible for coordinating help -- assistance programs and job training efforts -- and matching them to clients.
Individual clients would be able to one-stop shop with a caseworker who could connect them with assistance programs and job training needed to get them work.
The initial efforts would target people aged 16 to 24 with the idea of intervening before they get stuck in a cycle of poverty. Those clients would also have to take some personal responsibility, participating in job training and be willing to help themselves.
The goal is to expand the approach to all Ohioans on public assistance by July 1, 2016.
Kasich has hinted that he intended to revamp the state's welfare approach. In a speech to the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies on Thursday, he addressed tax changes he hopes will lead to more jobs, and he outlined his goals for public assistance.
"In our social service delivery system, there is no coordination," Kasich said. "Here I get my food stamps. Here I get my child care. Here I get this. Here I get that. And I spend most of my time standing in line and not being treated.
"What we intend to do, and I believe it's imperative, is we want to tear down the silos," Kasich said.
The budget plan will allocate $310 million in state and federal funding toward a comprehensive case management system.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide "more tools to help people who are stuck get unstuck," Kasich said.
While he discussed the new approach as one that will benefit individuals with the goal of lifting them out of poverty, he also issued a warning for the counties that administer the programs: Get on board or get left behind.
"We get this through, and I think we will, we're going to tell the commissioners (in Ohio's counties) that you will designate a lead agency and someone will be in charge of coordinating everything that involves the person in need," Kasich said. "If counties do not do this, and they do not meet the metrics ... we are going to take every dime of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) money out of that county and give it to a county that wants to do it, or we will privatize it or we will take it at the state level."
Job training programs will coordinate with the business community so that the skills being taught can be applied jobs that exist, Kasich said. "Not for underwater basket weaving."
And he will propose increasing the income ceiling for assistance for child care from 200 to 300 percent of the poverty line in an effort to keep that cost from being a barrier to someone seeking work.
Ohio has made progress toward economic recovery in the last three years, Kasich said. New jobs are up. Unemployment is down.
"Good, but not good enough," he said. The next step is to help lift up those in poverty and address its causes.
"You can't look at that person as just a number or a widget," he said. "You have to remember that you are in the process of rehabilitating a life."