Special Edition of Update Tells You How to do Business with Us

We produced a special edition of our Update community newsletter that details the best and fastest ways to do business with us. You can also read my column on our renewed commitment to customer service.

Here’s the link. While you are there, please sign up to regularly receive our newsletter via email.



State Surpasses Benchmark in Work Participation

Ohio has surpassed the 50 percent mark in work participation in the Ohio Works First program for the first time since 2007. This could help the state avoid $135 million in penalties from the federal government.

This is something worth celebrating because the penalties would be crippling. But there is still a long way to go.

Requiring work of cash assistance recipients is a stipulation of the nation’s overhaul of its welfare system back in 1996. State’s are required to have 50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families working or face financial penalties.

Ohio currently falls well short of the 90 percent mark for two-parent families, so it is still at risk of losing crucial dollars that are used to administer programs for needy families.   

Hamilton County remains the best major metropolitan county in both categories at 58 percent for the all-family rate and 69 percent for the two-parent rate. But, we too are falling short in the two-parent category.

I pledge that we take this very seriously and will keep at it. We have made this a focus over the past year and our success has vaulted us to the forefront of large counties. But there is still much work to do.

JFS Consumers Getting Speedier Service

The most recent round of state statistics on county processing times show Hamilton County led all metropolitan counties in processing February food stamp applications, with an 86% timeliness rate.

As you will recall, we had trouble processing new applications and re-applications this summer due to growing caseloads, changes in state policy and budget constraints. We told you we would put a plan in place that would get us back to acceptable levels. The new statistics show the plan has worked.

We not only led large counties in processing all food stamp applications, we led in processing new applications, in processing applications where there had been a break in eligibility and in processing expedited Medicaid applications. We also continue to be a leader in work-participation rates for our Ohio Works First recipients. 

I am proud my staff has invested so much effort into getting  better. We were faced with a challenge and we worked hard toward a solution. We appreciate the community’s patience with us.

This is a good lesson. We have had many challenges across our organization lately.  This is proof that when we put our minds to it and our sweat into it, we can become a better organization. You can count on us to do that.

As always, thank you for your patience and support.

Processing Times Improving

We have been pretty open about our timeliness problems with public assistance applications. If you’ll remember, we wrote this letter to the community in November.

We promised we would get better and we have. I am happy to report our we processed two-thirds of our food stamp applications in a timely manner during the last week of December. That number would have been even higher if we had not held on to some cases for a lengthy period of time hoping for consumers to get in the required verifications.

We still have a ways to go. The recession and its resulting budget cuts created a condition where we were serving an exploding caseload with fewer people. But we have since hired more employees, shifted others to this critical area and made technological and process improvements that have us on the right track.

We appreciate your patience with us. We will continue to work hard on your behalf.

Webinar Followup

If you are interested in learning about the sanction process for public assistance recipients who do not meet work requirements or the topic of warning signs to look for when choosing a caretaker for your child, we have a deal for you!

The information is available in two half-hour webinars we recorded over the past two weeks. The first gives our consumers, and those who work with them, a better understanding of the consequences of not fulfilling self-sufficiency contracts while receiving cash assistance from the agency.

The second details warning signs for single parents and those who support them to look for when deciding who is an appropriate caregiver for their children.

Webinars are a consumer-friendly way of reaching people where they are and educating key audiences about some of the important topics we tackle on a daily basis at JFS. If you are interested in viewing them, please follow the link below:


Five Online Resources for the Unemployed

I know sometimes people who are out of work because of the economy struggle with where to turn to for help. The Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services plays an important part in the social service safety net, serving thousands of people each day. We are also connected to other organizations that help. We put together a simple e-book listing some of the resources and how to access them. Check it out.


I’m now a blogger!

I am not normally a talkative person, nor do I necessarily believe people care to know what I think. But this is a critical time at Job and Family Services and I feel very strongly that we should be as open and accountable as possible. Thus, I am becoming a blogger.

Thankfully, I have people to help me with this. My technology skills are basic at best, but I hope to learn as I go. Please have patience and feel free to let me know how I might improve.

The most important thing to me about this blog is being able to connect with you. We serve hundreds of thousands of county residents every year and I want to make sure you get the information you need. And I want to hear about your experiences and ideas. Please consider this a two-way communication vehicle. Much of what we do is confidential, so there will be things I cannot talk about, and I certainly will not be able to solve all problems, but open dialogue should help clear up confusion around many issues.

For those of you who do not know about our department, we are the agency responsible for local child protection, elderly protection, child care, child support enforcement, workforce development, cash assistance, food stamp disbursement and Medicaid disbursement and even more. We are an agency that helps. We are the largest provider of food assistance, medical assistance, child care help, employment services and other services in Southwest Ohio.

And the news of this post – unfortunate as it is — is that the economy continues to drive up the number of people walking through our doors. There are 13,000 more people receiving food assistance right now than a year ago. That’s 93,000; one out of every nine Hamilton County residents. And most of them are working; they are just not earning enough to make ends meet.

Our Medicaid numbers, child care assistance numbers, cash assistance numbers…they are all at high levels, too. More people are seeking modifications to child support orders because they have had changes in their employment circumstances. Our Workforce Development area is extremely busy as people fall out of work and look for help getting back on their feet.

So, you can see, this is a critical time for us and it is extremely important that we do all we can to communicate with the residents of this county about how we can help. Thus, I am now a blogger! Go easy on me and please cut me some slack.