COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Welfare rolls in Ohio increased last month for the first time since the state began cracking down on federal requirements that most adult recipients spend 30 hours a week working, going to school or training for a job, or actively trying to find employment.
Caseloads went up to 130,349 in October, an increase of 880 people from the previous month. The uptick ends 20 consecutive months of decline in which the number of Ohioans receiving a monthly assistance check sunk to the lowest level in at least five decades, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1aSi1W5 ).
Since January 2011, more than 100,000 people have left the tax-funded program, as the welfare rolls plunged by 45 percent.
“It’s a true temporary-assistance program now,” said Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors’ Association.
About one third of those leaving the welfare rolls were removed for failing to meet work requirements; the rest left for other reasons, according to state officials.
Some increased their incomes and no longer qualified; others left on their own because they no longer wanted help or didn’t want to comply with the requirements. Others exhausted the maximum three years of assistance.
Stricter enforcement began under Gov. John Kasich to avoid $135 million in federal penalties. And while his administration awaits official word from federal regulators, the crackdown appears to have worked.
The state’s so called work-participation rate rose to 57 percent last month, up from 25 percent in December 2011.
Critics of the crackdown say welfare rolls got slashed while few got much help getting back on their feet and that cuts in state aid for work-support programs left county caseworkers with few resources to offer the poor beyond a monthly check.
In response, the new two-year state budget included $150 million for gas cards, emergency car repairs, rent payments and additional funding for job-placement services, said Benjamin Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Joel Potts said the money is desperately needed, adding that those remaining on the rolls face the most obstacles to self-sufficiency.
“We’re left with those who are the hardest to serve,” he said.