0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Gov. John Kasich’s refusal to seek
another waiver for federal regulations on food stamps will force 18,000
current recipients in Hamilton County to meet work requirements if they
want the benefits to continue.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:48 PM | Permalink
Governor not pursuing waiver for restrictions as economy supposedly recovers
Gov. John Kasich’s refusal to seek another waiver for federal regulations on food stamps will force 18,000 current recipients in Hamilton County to meet work requirements if they want the benefits to continue.
Under federal law, “able-bodied” childless adults receiving food
stamps are required to work or attend work training for 20 hours a week.
But when the Great Recession began, the federal government handed out
waivers to all states, including Ohio, so they could provide food
assistance without placing burdens on under- and unemployed populations.
Kasich isn’t asking for a renewal of that waiver, which means
134,000 Ohioans in most Ohio counties, including 18,000 in Hamilton
County, will have to meet the 20-hours-per-week work requirement to get
their $200 a month in food aid starting in January, after recipients go through a three-month limit on benefits for those not meeting the work requirements.The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services explained earlier in September that the waiver is no longer necessary in all but 16 counties because Ohio’s economy is now recovering from the Great Recession. Two weeks later, the August jobs report put Ohio’s unemployment rate at a one-year high of 7.3 percent after the state only added 0.6 percent more jobs between August 2012 and August this year.
At the same time, the federal government appears ready to allow stimulus funding for food stamp programs to expire in November. The extra money was adopted
in the onset of the Great Recession to provide increased aid to those hit
hardest by the economic downturn.
That means 18,000 food stamp recipients in Hamilton County
will have to meet a 20-hour-per-week work requirements to receive $189
per month — $11 less than current levels — for food aid starting in
November. Assuming three meals a day, that adds up to slightly more
than $2 per meal.
The $11 loss might not seem like much, but Tim McCartney,
chief operating officer at the Hamilton County Department of Job and
Family Services (HCDJFS), says it adds up for no- and low-income individuals.
“Food assistance at the federal level is called SNAP,
which is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s not designed to
be the entire food budget for yourself or your family. It’s designed to
be a supplement. So anything you lose to a supplement, you obviously
didn’t have enough in the first place,” McCartney says.
HCDJFS already helps some recipients of other welfare
programs meet work requirements through local partnerships. But to avoid
further straining those partners with a rush of 18,000 new
job-searchers, the county agency is also allowing food stamp recipients
to set up their own job and job training opportunities with other local
organizations, including neighborhood groups, churches and community
McCartney says he’s also advising people to pursue job opportunities at Cincinnati’s SuperJobs Center,
which attempts to link those looking for work with employers. McCartney
says the center has plenty of job openings, but many people are unaware
of the opportunities.
“This population sometimes has additional barriers with
previous convictions or drug and mental health issues that would
eventually exempt them, but for others, there are plenty of
opportunities right now that we’d like to connect them with,” he says.
Conservatives, especially Republicans, argue the work
requirements are necessary to ensure people don’t take advantage of the
welfare system to gain easy benefits. But progressives are concerned the
restrictions will unfairly hurt the poorest Ohioans and the economy.
Progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio previously found every $1
increase in government food aid produces $1.70 in economic
At the federal level, Republican legislators, including
local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, are seeking further cuts to the food stamp program through H.R. 3102, which would slash
$39 billion over 10 years from the program. Part of the savings in the
bill come from stopping states from obtaining waivers on work
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio
Association of Foodbanks, decried the bill in a statement: “Congress
shouldn’t be turning to Ohio’s poorest people to find savings —
especially children and others who are unable to work for their own
food. The proposal the Ohio members of Congress supported is immoral,
and our lawmakers must work together to represent all their
constituents. No one should be in the business of causing hunger, yet
that’s the choice the Ohio members of Congress made today.”
The legislation is unlikely to make it through the U.S. Senate, but President Barack Obama promised to veto the bill if it comes to his desk.Correction: This story previously said the restrictions start removing “able-bodied” childless adults from the rolls in October instead of January.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
In the middle of a state economy mired in
stagnant growth, Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans are
attempting to weaken a key safety net that benefits more than 1.8
by German Lopez
Food stamp rules to hit locals, city defends allowances, charterites oppose pension initiative
Gov. John Kasich’s refusal to seek another waiver for
federal regulations on food stamps will force 18,000 current recipients
in Hamilton County to meet work requirements
if they want the benefits to continue. That means "able-bodied"
childless adults will have to work or attend work training sessions for 20 hours a week starting in October to continue getting food assistance. The renewed rules are coming just one month before federal stimulus funds for the food stamp program are set to expire, which will push down the $200-a-month food benefits
to $189 a month, or slightly more than $2 a meal, in November. In light of the new requirements, the Hamilton County
Department of Job and
Family Services will help link people with jobs through local partnerships and
Hamilton County's SuperJobs Center,
but that might be difficult for food stamp recipients who have past
convictions, mental health problems and other barriers to employment.The city administration defended its proposal to restore $26,640 in car allowances
for the mayor, city manager and other director-level positions in the
city government, just a few months after the city narrowly avoided
laying off cops, firefighters and other city employees by making cuts in
various areas, including city parks. City spokesperson Meg Olberding
says car allowances are part of traditional compensation packages in
other cities Cincinnati competes with for recruitment, and she says that
the compensation was promised to city directors when they were first
hired for the jobs. But Councilman Chris Seelbach says the proposal is
out of touch and that he's more concerned about lower-paid city employees,
such as garbage collectors, who haven't gotten a raise in years, much
less a $5,000 car allowance. The Charter Committee, Cincinnati's unofficial third political party, came out against the tea party-backed pension ballot initiative. The committee recognizes Cincinnati needs pension reform soon, but it says the tea party proposal isn't the right solution. The tea party-backed amendment would privatize Cincinnati's pension system so future city employees — excluding cops and firefighters, who are under a different system — would have to contribute to and manage 401k-style retirement accounts. Under the current system, the city pools and manages pension funds through an independent board. Supporters argue the amendment is necessary to deal with the city's growing pension liability, but opponents, including all council members, argue it would actually cost the city more and decrease employees' benefits. CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups behind it in further detail here.State Rep. John Becker of Clermont County wants U.S. Judge Timothy Black impeached because the judge ruled Ohio must recognize a Cincinnati same-sex couple's marriage in a death certificate. The judge gave the special order for locals James Obergefell and John Arthur, who is close to death because of a neurodegenerative disease with no known cure called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says if the city were to synchronize its mayoral primary elections with other state and county elections, it could save money by spreading the share of the costs. The Sept. 10 primary cost Cincinnati $437,000. The change would require altering the city charter, which needs voter approval.The Ohio Department of Education will soon release revised report card grades for Cincinnati Public Schools and other school districts following an investigation that found the school districts were scrubbing data in a way that could have benefited their state evaluations.An Ohio bill would ban drivers younger than 21 from driving with non-family members in the car and bump the driving curfew from midnight to 10 p.m., with some exceptions for work and school.A University of Cincinnati football player is dead and three others are injured following a single-car crash.Ohio gas prices rose as the national average dipped.Here is a map of air pollution deaths around the world.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:14 PM | Permalink
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
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
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
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.
by German Lopez
Gay marriages recognized, facial recognition panel appointed, drug testing for welfare fails
The federal government announced yesterday that same-sex
marriages will be recognized for federal tax and Medicare purposes even
if the marriage is considered illegal in the state where the couple
resides. That means gay Ohioans could get married in a state
where it’s legal, such as Massachusetts or California, and have their
marriages recognized by the federal government even if the couple
lives in Ohio. The change does not apply to Social Security,
which will continue basing benefits on where couples live, not where
they got married. The changes also won’t apply to taxes at the local and
state level until those governments legalize same-sex marriage for
themselves. Freedom Ohio is currently working to get same-sex marriage
on Ohio’s ballot in 2014, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday appointed the panel
that will review the state’s facial recognition program. It includes
Democrats, Republicans, judges, law enforcement and prosecutors, but not
civil liberties groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union,
that asked to be involved. Shortly after the program was formally
unveiled on Monday, the ACLU asked DeWine to shut it down
until proper protocols are put in place to protect Ohioans’ rights to
privacy. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to
use a photo to search databases for names and contact information.
Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search
A Republican state senator is introducing legislation that
would attach drug testing to welfare benefits in Ohio, but similar
measures have failed in other states.
Under the proposal, welfare recipients in three counties would be
required to take a drug test if they admit in a questionnaire to using
drugs in the past six months. In Utah, the state government spent more
than $30,000 screening welfare applicants, but only 12 people tested
positive, according to Deseret News.
The policy has also faced legal troubles, particularly in Florida, but
since the Ohio proposal only requires drug testing after information is
solicited through a questionnaire, it’s unclear whether privacy concerns
will hold up in court.
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, is speaking out against a $300 million light rail project
that would run from downtown Cincinnati to Milford, Ohio. Hartmann says
he’s concerned ridership numbers will be low and costs will be too
high. County commissioners are involved with the project through the
Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District.
Ex-Councilman John Cranley continues to outraise and outspend Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race. But money rarely matters in political campaigns, according to research and Cincinnati’s mayoral history.
The conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is asking the city solicitor
to force Councilman Chris Seelbach to repay the city for his trip to
Washington, D.C., where Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council
member, received the White House’s Champion of Change Award. Seelbach
says the trip served a public purpose; mainly, the trip allowed him and
his staff to spend time with other award recipients to learn how to
better deal with LGBT issues.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble announced it backs legislation that would prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ohio currently has no such law.
Ohio’s prison population is growing again,
which has spurred further calls from state officials to continue
pursuing sentencing reform. The state government in 2012 passed some
reform that weakened sentences and made it easier for convicts to have their records expunged, but Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director
Gary Mohr says more needs to be done.
Ohio gun owners are gathering in Columbus today to call on
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to support comprehensive background checks
for firearms, according to a press release from Mayors Against Illegal
Guns. Polling data released by the group found 83 percent of Ohioans
support comprehensive background checks.
A Democratic state representative is asking Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to explain why he’s accused of forcing the Ohio EPA’s top water watchdog to resign,
but Kasich’s people don’t seem to be taking the concern too seriously.
Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols responded to the demands by telling The Columbus Dispatch,
“If she had her way, we’d all be living on a collective farm cooking
organic quinoa over a dung fire. So I think we’ll take her views in
context.” George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s surface-water
division, was allegedly asked to step down by Kasich after Elmaraghy
claimed Ohio coal companies want water-pollution permits “that may have a
negative impact on Ohio’s streams and wetlands and violate state and
federal laws.” Republican lawmakers are notoriously friendly with oil,
gas and coal companies.
Two more are being investigated by the Hamilton County Board of Elections for illegally voting in Ohio while living in other states.
Gas prices are rising in time for Labor Day weekend, but they should be cheaper than last year.
The famous “47 percent” is now down to 43 percent.
The Tax Policy Center says the change is driven by the recovering
economy, rising incomes and cuts to federal assistance programs.
Antarctica appears to be bleeding in a phenomenon that shows life can exist without sunlight or oxygen.
Popular Science has an explainer for cruise missiles, the weapon that soon may be deployed against Syria.
by German Lopez
at 01:48 PM | Permalink
Test program would be active in three counties for two years
In a move that is now being
contested by Democrats, Republicans have pushed for a pilot program to make
drug testing a requirement for welfare recipients.
The program will be active in
three counties for two years. It would require anyone suspected of using drugs
to submit to and pay for a drug test. Those who pass would be reimbursed for
the drug test, and those who fail would not get welfare benefits for at least
Republicans claimed the move will
save the state money.
A drug testing program in Florida actually cost the state
money. In Florida, the state government’s program had a net loss of $45,780
after it reimbursed all falsely accused welfare recipients of their drug tests.
Only 108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive, and
most tested positive for marijuana, according to The Miami Herald.
One Senate Democrat told The Columbus Dispatch that
if welfare recipients are to be tested, so should corporations that receive
public funds because there is “no evidence” that poor people have higher rates
of drug abuse.
That claim is supported by the limited research in the area.
One study by California’s Healthy Kids Survey in 2007 found affluent kids have
higher rates of drug use than poor kids. Another study by the National
Institutes of Health in 1996 found that welfare recipients are not more likely
to do drugs than the rest of the population and non-welfare recipients.
The ACLU sued Florida over its
program in September, leading to a temporary stop on drug testing. The
organization has repeatedly argued drug-testing laws violate the Fourth
Amendment, which protects all citizens against “unreasonable searches.”
Another drug-testing law in
Michigan was struck down by the courts in 2003.
But states have not been fazed by
questions of constitutionality. Dozens of states have introduced legislation
requiring drug testing in the past year, and a drug-testing law was passed in
Georgia in April.Correction: This story originally stated that the ACLU sued Florida in October. The ACLU actually sued in September.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:33 PM | Permalink
State senator gives proposal another shot in Ohio
State Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) is introducing
legislation Thursday that would attach mandatory drug testing to welfare
benefits, even though similar policies have proven to be costly with
little gain in other states.
“It is time that we recognize that many families are
trying to survive in drug-induced poverty, and we have an obligation to
make sure taxpayer money is not being used to support drug dealers,”
Schaffer told The Columbus Dispatch. “We can no longer turn a blind eye to this problem.”
Under the proposal, welfare recipients in three counties
would be required to take a drug test if they admit in a questionnaire
to using drugs in the past six months. Children, who make up a bulk of
welfare recipients, would be exempt. (In June, 24,443 adults and 105,822
children obtained welfare benefits in Ohio, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.)
The policy, which was originally touted as a way to reduce
welfare costs, has backfired in many states. That’s why the supporting
line is now about preventing dollars from going to drug dealers instead
of cost savings.
reports the latest problems in Utah: “Utah has spent more than $30,000
to screen welfare applicants for drug use since a new law went into
effect a year ago, but only 12 people have tested positive, state
When Ohio legislators in 2012 proposed a drug testing requirement for welfare benefits, CityBeat reported another failure in Florida originally covered by The Miami Herald:
In that state, the program had a net loss of $45,780 after it
reimbursed falsely accused welfare recipients for their drug tests. Only
108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive,
and most tested positive for marijuana.
Utah and Florida are among eight states
that have enacted drug testing requirements for welfare recipients since
2011, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A court placed an injunction on the Florida program after
the American Civil Liberties Union sued on September 2011. That injunction
was upheld on Feb. 26 by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in
Atlanta, which concluded,
“The simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF
(welfare) applicant of the same constitutional protection from
unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy.”
Given that Schaffer’s bill would require drug testing only
after information is solicited through questionnaires, it’s unclear
whether legal challenges like the one in Florida would be successful in
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 7, 2013
More than 1.8 million
Ohioans — 16 percent of the state’s population — will receive
significantly less food aid from the federal government after October.
by Danny Cross
Posted In: President Obama
, 2012 Election
, Social Justice
at 07:16 AM | Permalink
The ongoing saga involving Cincinnati
Police Chief James Craig and his nonexistent policing powers will
continue into July, as a hearing scheduled for Thursday has been
continued. Craig's attorneys will argue in front of the Ohio Peace
Officer Training Commission that his prior experience, and
certification in three other states, should exempt him from a state
rule requiring all officers pass a certification exam before earning
police powers. Craig believes he was hired to do things other than
study for an entry-level policing test, and some states would already
have certified him.
A statewide ban on texting while
driving moved through the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday and
is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich. The law makes
the writing, sending or reading of a text message while driving a
secondary offense, meaning officers may not pull over an adult driver
for the act. Teens, however, under House Bill 99 will be prohibited
from using any electronic device other than GPS and may be pulled
over for it.
Kasich on Tuesday followed through with
the GOP plan to overturn its own controversial election law that was
to go before voters in November. State Republicans and election
officials now say there's no reason for the law to go in front of
voters thanks to the 300,000 signatures gathered by President Obama's
re-election campaign and other opponents, but opponents of the
election law point out that the repeal still reaffirms an election
law change that would end early voting the weekend before an
election. Democrats plan to keep the issue on the ballot.
But people on both sides of the issue
say there's no precedent for a legislative repeal of a bill that also
is the subject of a referendum, so it's unclear how a court might
rule if a legal challenge is filed.
Jennifer Brunner, a former Democratic
secretary of state and a leader in the Fair Elections Ohio campaign
that brought the referendum, said Tuesday that the action taken by
Gov. John Kasich and Legislature doesn't force the removal of the
question from November ballots.
"Since this issue is a case of
first impression for any court, we do not see the statement of the
Secretary of State to be determinative on this issue," Brunner
said in an email. "The issue remains on the ballot."
More drama from Columbus: Republicans
are moving forward with a test program requiring some welfare
recipients to submit to drug testing in order to continue receiving
benefits. Opponents say the process stigmatizes the poor, while the
GOP says it's just a simple process involving poor people paying the
upfront costs for drug tests, being reimbursed if they pass and
living on the streets for six months if they fail.Northern Kentucky leaders plan to use
the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine as a model for reinvesting in
their urban core. A nonprofit organization has raised $10 million
during the past five years to get started spurring commercial and
Two Kentucky high school students who
were turned away from their senior prom for arriving as a same-sex
couple have argued that if their Catholic high school wants to ban
students based on upholding the church's teachings, such a
ban should include couples who have had premarital sex and kids who
plan to get wasted after the prom.
Apparently viewers of Harry's Law,
which was set in Cincinnati and used a stage-version of Arnold's as
the lawyer gang's regular hangout, are too old to attract advertising
dollars despite their relatively high numbers.
The show ranked very low among viewers
ages 18 to 49, the demographic most advertisers care about. In fact,
its young-adult numbers were beneath those for "Prime Suspect,"
a cop show that NBC canceled earlier this season, and roughly on par
with those of "Off Their Rockers," the Betty White show
about senior citizens pulling pranks on younger people.
"It was a difficult decision,"
an NBC executive said Sunday, quoted by the site Deadline.com.
"Everyone here respects 'Harry's Law' a lot but we were finding
it hard to grow the audience for it. Its audience skewed very old and
it is hard to monetize that."
President Obama raised $44 million
during April for his and other Democratic campaigns.
John Boehner says that when the federal
government raises the debt limit again America can expect another
prolonged fight about cuts.
George W. Bush has found “freedom”
wherever he ended up after having little to offer the GOP after his
tumultuous two terms as president. From ABC News:We don't see much of Bush these days.
He's the president that a lot of people would like to forget, still
so toxic that he's widely considered more likely to hurt than
help the Republican Party by participating in the 2012 campaign.
Bush's speech Tuesday morning was a
rare exception. He spoke in a small, nondescript room to about 200
people about democracy activists, promoting a human rights campaign
that's part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
His presence on the national stage is
perhaps best seen in his presence on the small stage at 1777 F
Street. At the end of the affair, Bush and his wife were called back
up to be presented with writings by Czech human rights icon Vaclav
Havel. They posed for pictures as the audience clapped, and when they
were done, Bush glanced around as if unsure what to do next.
He walked back to his seat, but then
quickly walked back onto the stage and behind the lectern. He leaned
forward into the microphone, paused, and said slyly, "Thanks for
Bush waited a second or two. Then he
said, "See ya later."He waved, and then he left. Is U.S. energy independence a pipe
dream? This article says no.
Apple might soon give you a larger
A private rocket launch this week could be the
start of commercial space travel.
Here are some important tips about
sunscreen as summer approaches and the circle in the sky threatens to
burn off our skin.