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by German Lopez 09.19.2013
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hamilton county department of job and family services

Hamilton County Reprimanded in Latest State Audit

Department of Job and Family Services cited for multiple errors

The Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) was reprimanded in a state audit released Thursday that uncovered inadequate protocols and failures to correct previous audits’ findings. But HCDJFS spokesperson Brian Gregg says a lot of the audit’s findings could be outdated because they’re based on data from 2011. “We’re working on information that is two years old but was just presented to us,” he says. HCDJFS, which handles the county’s social services and welfare programs, was criticized for not keeping proper documentation and failing to conduct various checks required to gauge whether federal, state and local funds should be used for child support services. Gregg blames the inadequacies on a bout of temporary chaos caused by funding reductions and layoffs, which he pinned on state government cuts from 2008 that cost HCDJFS roughly half its budget. Since then, he says the county has retrained staff to manage the agency’s smaller size. Gregg also noted that the sampling size for the findings — 25 — was fairly low. “You can get a bad batch,” he says. “I don’t want this to be indicative of the program.” Instead, Gregg points to county-by-county data for child support that put Hamilton County above all other metropolitan counties in Ohio for cost effectiveness. The data, produced by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in 2012, found Hamilton County is getting $28.52 in child support for every $1 it pays staff to collect support. In comparison, Cuyahoga County’s ratio was $8.56-to-$1 and Franklin County’s was $11.62-to-$1. “We’re probably the best and most efficient metropolitan county in the state when it comes to child support collection,” Gregg says. The audit also found HCDJFS paid more than $330,000 in excess rent in 2011, more than $24,000 of which was allocated to local funds while the rest was charged to state and federal funds. A 2010 state audit found similar excess rent charges. The agency told the state auditor’s office it will continue working with the county budget office and prosecutor to correct the lease agreement that led to the excess rent. “That’s a result of a way the state interpreted a federal law in 2010,” Gregg says. “We’ve had that lease from ’93 on. There was a change in 2010, and we’re now working with the county to get in compliance.” HCDJFS employees were also found to be inadequately tracking their working hours, which the agency says it’s now correcting by setting up a new computer system. The new findings were heaped on top of old errors found in previous state audits, including several misused funds. Many of the old errors remain uncorrected. But none of the new findings indicated that HCDJFS has to refund money to other government agencies. “We feel good that there were no findings for recovery. We don’t owe anything. These few things that they did find are managerial, and we’ll work them out,” Gregg says. The same didn’t apply to one case of overcharge — totaling $2,400 — at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which the Sheriff’s Office says led to an investigation and criminal charges against the property officer supervisor as well as new policies to protect payment systems in the future.

Sacrificing Children

Budget cuts impact children's services, putting our most vulnerable at risk

6 Comments · Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Hamilton County has built an impressive network of service providers that's the envy of many Ohio counties. Yet the local system has always been overloaded, underfunded and expected to do more than it was designed for. Now Ohio and the city of Cincinnati are in the process of gutting that fragile safety net in order to close budget gaps. As a result, Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services has no choice but to make deep cuts. To date, 200 jobs have been eliminated and 40 vacant positions in child services have gone unfilled. Contracts with service providers have also been cut.  

Cutting the Safety Net

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I've never completely understood why some people think that spending on social programs is "wasting money." Every detractor is armed and ready with some special story about how the system utterly and completely failed, taking their hard-earned tax money and giving it away to selfish, undeserving people who will never change their bad habits and, worse, are just waiting for the next handout. Cincinnati city administration officials, though, have taken this reasoning to new heights, canceling large swaths of funding for several agencies providing critical social services to our community.