Help for the Unemployed

I pointed out a few posts ago that our agency does not handle unemployment compensation. It is handled at the state level, by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Still, many of the people who find themselves unemployed turn to our agency for help with food, medical insurance or other necessities. We serve the same population.

The state recently unveiled a website aimed at helping the unemployed access a range of state services. The OhioHereToHelp site can help the unemployed search for a job, find education and training opportunities and get information about resources and other aid available to them.

You can check out OhioHereToHelp website here: http://ohioheretohelp.ohio.gov/index.stm

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Anniversary Worth Noting

Ten years ago this year, a group of entities focused on child abuse and its victims came together and created a first-of-its kind operation at Children’s Hospital Medical Center that today includes state-of-the-art diagnostic treatment, prevention and training programs and cutting-edge research in the field of child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, child neglect and parenting. It is an anniversary I am happy to celebrate.

The Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center was originally designed to coordinate child sex abuse investigations and to make life easier for the victims. All of the entities involved in the investigation would be in one place, making it easier to share information. Children would only have to undergo one interview.

But the center has expanded tremendously since then, including moving to cover all child abuse, not just sex abuse. And the commitment and collaboration from all parties has turned it into a one-stop shop for all child abuse prevention, treatment and research. Countless children in this community have been helped by the center, and it has become a model for other communities to copy.

The Mayerson Center staff includes officers from both the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriffs Office, Job and Family Services workers, a victim advocate from the Hamilton County Prosecutors Office, and Cincinnati Childrens staff of physicians, nurses and social workers. We are very proud to be a part of this collaboration and extremely happy with the cooperation and coordination shared by the groups.

Happy anniversary Mayerson!

Not Meeting the Workload? Work Experience Program Could Be the Answer

Just a note that we are looking for businesses, non-profits and others to help our public assistance recipients gain work experience. Becoming a Work Experience Program site enables your business or organization to receive free help with your work, while the recipients gain valuable work experience. And who knows — maybe we match up an employer with a future employee!

For more information, check out the following:

http://www.hcjfs.hamilton-co.org/TodayatHCJFS/2010/07/WEP100714.htm

Avoid a trip downtown

Today I learned about yet-another difficult decision made by a growing number of the people we serve: Do they spend their limited resources on transportation to submit a job application, or on a trip to our downtown office to investigate getting additional or first-time help?

Some are unaware that they could put their bus fare toward a job possibility – and go to their nearby library branch to fax information to us.

Our agency began partnering with the public library system in June 2008 as part of an effort to improve customer service. People can take required paperwork to any of 41 branches located throughout the county during more convenient hours, including evenings and weekends.

Library staff have been trained to handle JFS documents such as applications, rent receipts and pay stubs. They fax the documents to the department’s main building, relieving clients of mailing or taking them downtown.

Unfortunately, most often clients still need to come to the agency for application or reapplication appointments. But they don’t need to make return trips to drop off papers they may have forgotten, or not known they needed.

Library employees fax a cover letter with basic information such as the branch location and customer’s name as well as a check list of verification documents ranging from employment verifications to rent receipts. If necessary, they copy the documents for faxing. They give the client a receipt confirming the transaction.

I encourage them to use this free service, so they can stretch their thin resources.

Helping people better understand our role

In yesterday’s live chat about Medicaid, food assistance and cash assistance, we received a number of good questions from people who may be accessing services for the first time.

Some seemed confused about the difference between unemployment compensation and cash assistance.

Others had been laid off, receiving unemployment and food stamps, and inquiring if they might qualify for other help.

I’m glad we were able to offer answers as they work through challenging times.

Just to clarify, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services handles unemployment compensation. You can find out more here: http://jfs.ohio.gov/ouc/

Our agency, the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, is where people come to apply for food assistance (formerly food stamps), Medicaid and cash assistance (Ohio Works First, or OWF). You can find out more about OWF — Ohio’s version of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) here: http://www.hcjfs.hamilton-co.org/Demo/services/cashassistance/default.htm

Another helpful resource is the Online Service Center on our website (www.hcjfs.org). It has applications and online calculators to help people determine if they might qualify for food assistance, Medicaid or cash assistance: http://www.hcjfs.hamilton-co.org/OnlineServiceCenter0906.htm

We’re glad to answer questions like those asked this week. Please continue to participate in our live online chats. Read transcripts or previous chats. This will help you better understand our programs and how to access them.

Using technology to improve customer service

“This service is incredible. It saves me $7.00 in bus fare. Please pass on accolades to whoever set this up!”

This is just one of many positive comments we get from people who take advantage of our live online chats on http://www.hcjfs.org.

Last week (June 28-July 2) was the busiest since we started offering chats for Medicaid, food assistance and cash assistance customers in March. We conducted 1,007 chats! The previous high was 892 the week of April 5. The average weekly chat number is 770.

Organizations such as National Association of County Human Services Administrators have praised our agency’s use of technology such as live chats to better serve the public. To see the association’s most-recent newsletter, please click here.

It’s wonderful to receive national recognition for our efforts, but the biggest payoff comes when we get comments such as those above.