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Friday, September 11th, 2009

Clients up, funding down

Job and Family Services

By Shelley Grieshop
The effects of state funding cuts have been magnified at the local level as the number of needy people has skyrocketed in the last year.
Statistics on the subject and the increased case loads at Mercer County Job and Family Services (JFS) were discussed Thursday morning when agency Director Dale Borger gave an update to county commissioners. He did not ask commissioners for any additional funding.
The local JFS must cut at least $500,000 from its $2.1 million annual budget due to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's cut of $579 million to JFS offices statewide.
Borger, who already cut five full-time positions from his department, gave several examples of the fall-out being felt by his staff.
He said there's been a 66.7 percent increase during the last year in the number of county residents receiving food stamps. In May 2008, there were 1,500 people on the list; this year there are 2,500, he said. That means more than 6 percent of county residents are now using food stamps to help purchase groceries.
The current lag in the economy is evident when looking at older data, Borger said. Between 1990 and 2008, the number of food stamp recipients increased by a mere dozen people, he explained.
"We're seeing people now that we've never seen before," he said.
He also noted a 19.1 percent increase in Medicaid clients - a jump from 3,400 in 2008 to 4,116 this year. That equates to more than 10 percent of county residents now relying on Medicaid, he said.
"The vast majority of them are children," Borger added.
One of the biggest increases he shared with commissioners was the 73.6 percent rise in Ohio Works First cases. The program provides temporary cash assistance to needy families.
Borger said his staff is finding it increasingly difficult to efficiently get the work done after losing 18 percent of their workforce. All tasks are being prioritized by importance with the care and welfare of children topping the list, he said.
Everyone is doing what they can to make the situation work, he said.
"I work the front desk sometimes to fill in when everybody else is out," he said. "It's eye opening."
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