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Ohio finds way to meet welfare rule, at $10 a month

December 8, 2011
Salem News

Ohio might have been able to deal more honestly with a federal requirement on public assistance had the problem not been shuffled under the carpet for several years during former Gov. Ted Strickland's administration. But when Washington finally cracked the whip, state officials had no choice but to devise a technicality to comply.

Federal law requires at least 50 percent of adults receiving welfare benefits work - at least part-time. In two-parent households, the mandate goes up to 90 percent.

Ohio has not been in compliance since 2007. By September, a third of the state's welfare recipients were not meeting the work requirement.

Obviously, the recession has made it tougher for many people on public assistance to find jobs. One might have thought Congress or President Barack Obama's administration would have taken that into account and allowed the state some leeway, until the recovery is better established.

Again, however, Ohio wasn't complying with the law even during good times, so a day of reckoning was to be expected.

Federal officials have approved the state's plan to come into compliance. It doesn't involve getting more welfare recipients into jobs, at least for now.

Instead, the state plans to find more working people - those receiving food stamps - and sign them up for other forms of public assistance. They will receive $10 a month.

That will increase the percentage of public assistance clients who have jobs, meeting the federal mandate.

Fortunately, the state also has plans to perform a more legitimate overhaul. Several new initiatives are under way to get more welfare recipients into the workforce. In view of that, federal officials should be willing to grant the state some wiggle-room in getting up to speed on the work requirement.

The $10-a-month plan technicality should be viewed as a temporary expedient, until the state can make more legitimate initiatives work.



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