Obama Administration Says Ohio Botched Welfare Reform

State officials in Columbus are getting squeezed by the Obama administration because Ohio failed to move enough people off public assistance programs into real jobs. The feds contend the state has mismanaged welfare reform since 2007.

State officials in Columbus are getting squeezed by the Obama administration because Ohio failed to move enough people off public assistance programs into real jobs. The feds contend the state has mismanaged welfare reform since 2007.

It is former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s administration getting blame for not being aggressive with the work component. Now Ohio is desperately trying to dodge $136.2 million in penalties for failing to shift welfare recipients into the workforce. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration plans to spend nearly $500,000 on Public Consulting Group Inc. of Boston, which states that the welfare to work reforms suggested by the Obama administration in July — those denounced by Romney-Ryan — could help move more people from assistance to jobs.  

The consulting firm says it knows how to help a state win a waiver, which is an alternative way to assist Ohio’s State Family Assistance Grant (i.e. TANF) recipients into the workforce. The waivers are what Romney and Ryan have denounced as killing welfare reform. (So far, Ohio hasn’t asked the consultant directly to develop a waiver plan.) But the consultant Ohio is hiring is clear that waivers don’t end work requirements and they could actually help achieve better employment outcomes.

The consulting firm sees the change as opening up “thoughtful and innovative approaches that connect TANF participants to jobs in a more effective and less administratively burdensome way.” 

The consultant being hired by the Republicans at the Statehouse in Columbus doesn’t say Obama is gutting welfare reform, but that the new waiver authority is intended specifically to allow states more flexibility in defining and measuring work requirements, which will help states experiment with achieving more positive employment outcomes.

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