0 Comments · Wednesday, September 26, 2012
State officials in Columbus are getting
squeezed by the Obama administration because Ohio failed to move enough
people off public assistance programs into real jobs. The feds contend
the state has mismanaged welfare reform since 2007.
by Bill Sloat
Penalty threatened because too few recipients shifted to paying jobs
For the past month, Romney-Ryan and crew have been busy
accusing President Obama of eliminating welfare-to-work requirements.
You can hardly miss the campaign commercials that claim Obama has taken
the “work” out of welfare reform. But what we haven’t heard is that
state officials in Columbus are getting squeezed by the Obama
Administration because Ohio failed to move enough people off public
assistance programs into real jobs. The feds contend the state has
mismanaged welfare reform since 2007.
It is former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s administration getting blame for not being aggressive with the work component. Now Ohio is desperately trying to dodge $136.2 million in penalties for failing to shift welfare recipients into the workforce. Next
week, Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration plans to spend
nearly $500,000 on a consultant to help clean up Ohio’s mess. Public
Consulting Group Inc. of Boston is in line to get the $499,642 contract.
That company says the welfare to work reforms suggested by the Obama
Administration in July — the waivers denounced by Romney-Ryan — could
actually help get more people off assistance and into jobs.
Here’s language straight from the Kasich Administration’s request to hire the Boston consulting firm:
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Administration for Children and Families (ACF), notified Ohio of its
failure to meet the performance threshold of fifty percent (all
families) and ninety percent (two parent families) for TANF work
participation for FFY’s 2007, 2008, and 2009. These
notifications carried potential penalties of $32,758,572 for FFY 2007,
$45,050,074 for FFY 2008 and $58,517,487 for FFY 2009. Ohio’s current
corrective compliance will require Ohio to completely correct the
violation by meeting the work participation threshold during the current
FFY 2012. Failure to do so will result in a reduction of Ohio’s State
Family Assistance Grant (i.e. TANF) of $32,758,872 …”
State officials said the consultant would do analysis to
increase work participation rates “in accordance with federal
requirements.” Nobody is suggesting that work participation requirements be ended.
The consulting firm says it knows how to help a state win a
waiver, which is an alternative way to assist TANF recipients into the
workforce. The waivers are what Romney and Ryan have denounced as
killing welfare reform. (So far, Ohio hasn’t asked the consultant
directly to develop a waiver plan.) But the consultant Ohio is hiring is
clear that waivers don’t end work requirements and they could actually
help achieve better employment outcomes.
“The Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
recently issued a challenge for states to develop and test new and
innovative strategies that will improve employment outcomes in the
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program,” the consulting
firm says. It sees the change as opening up “thoughtful and innovative
approaches that connect TANF participants to jobs in a more effective
and less administratively burdensome way.”
Again, the consultant being hired by the Republicans at
the Statehouse in Columbus doesn’t say Obama is gutting welfare reform.
The consultant says, “The waiver authority specifically allows states to
test new ways of helping achieve better employment outcomes within the
TANF program by offering flexibility on how work requirements and work
participation are defined, administered and measured.”