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Ohio should abandon shell game right now

October 4, 2011
Salem News

Because federal officials threatened to fine the state of Ohio $136 million for failing to comply with a federal law on welfare benefits, the state program has been changed.

But Ohio is avoiding the fines by resorting to what amounts to a shell game that should be abandoned as soon as possible.

We don't blame state officials for devising a technicality to comply with federal law. The problem dates back to 2007, and apparently was not addressed by the administration of former Gov. Ted Strickland. That left Gov. John Kasich's administration with little choice.

Federal law requires at least half of welfare recipients be employed or seeking work. Ohio has not complied with that since 2007. Now, Washington has lost its patience and threatened to levy fines so stiff they would threaten the state's ability to fund welfare programs needed by tens of thousands of families.

Kasich administration officials came up with a creative way to hit the 50 percent mark. They are expanding the state's welfare program to more families with children. Only working families will qualify for the new benefit - of $10 a month.

Placing the new recipients in the welfare pool will increase the total percentage of those working to over the 50 percent threshold.

State officials are not stopping there. They also are implementing plans to increase the number of people already on welfare who have jobs or are seeking them actively. So, while the method of avoiding the $136 million fine initially doesn't sound appealing, the overall strategy is.

Again, had the Strickland administration done more to comply with the law, Kasich's would not have had to resort to what amounts to trickery. Presumably federal officials are taking that into account in allowing the practice.

The near-fiasco is one more example of how Ohioans now are scrambling - and sometimes sacrificing - to make up for four years of deceptive government under Strickland.



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