By Tim Cox
Mercer County stands to get a share of $14.6 million in welfare incentive money that might end up being used to help low-income families deal with sky-high heating costs expected this winter.
The local share of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families remains undetermined. County Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) Director Dale Borger said the funding is incentive money for Ohio's efforts in moving people from welfare to work.
State DJFS officials have recommended that each county spend its extra share on heating assistance. With energy prices high, home heating costs are expected to be at record levels. A decision will be made locally on how to spend the money after it is determined how much is available, Borger told county commissioners Tuesday.
Ohio's $14.6 million share of the federal handout is the second-largest in the nation, according to a news release from the Ohio DJFS. The state has reaped $64 million in "bonuses" over the past three years, more than any other state.
"I am very proud of what Ohio and its county department of job and family services have been able to accomplish in helping families find and keep work in difficult economic times," state DJFS Director Barbara Riley said. "This is an indication of good work, but our future success, and the success of the families we serve, is dependent on our ability to continue to provide more and better jobs for all Ohioans who want them." The incentive payments are made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
There were 46,631 adult TANF recipients in Ohio last month, a 62 percent decrease since welfare reform programs were launched in 1997. Welfare payments peaked in Ohio in 1992 when nearly 750,000 people were receiving assistance. The current statewide caseload is at its lowest level since 1964, state officials said.
There were 43 adults receiving TANF and Ohio Works First assistance in August. The county averages about 50 people per month on TANF assistance, an agency official said this morning.