Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday threatened to withhold funding from county agencies that do not meet performance goals for comprehensive case management and employment programs as outlined in his two-year budget, unveiled last week.
“I’m not fooling around with this,” Kasich told a group of more than two dozen state and local leaders gathered at the offices of Hamilton County Job & Family Services in downtown Cincinnati.
Kasich indicated that Temporarily Assistance to Needy Families and federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act dollars could be at risk for counties that fail to meet established performance metrics.
Fairfield City Councilman Adam Jones applauded the governor’s conviction and efforts to streamline and coordinate workforce development programs, but he said a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in every county.
“You look at Butler and Warren (counties); it’s two different entities, the economies are totally different,” Jones said, noting that it will be easier for the fastest-growing counties to meet the performance measures, giving them an unfair advantage.
Kasich said his budget is designed to clear out layers of bureaucracy and transform the state’s workforce development and social services system from “an emergency room approach to welfare and create a hospital approach.”
He said emergency departments treat and release patients often without diagnosing the root cause of the problem, while hospitals provide more holistic treatment and counseling.
“We’re providing help, but that’s not enough,” Kasich said, referring to Ohio’s social services agencies. “If we only provide the help, and we don’t give them whatever it takes to get them on their feet, we’re doing a disservice to their children, we’re doing a disservice to them, and we’re doing a disservice to the taxpayer.”
In addition, the state’s social services system needs to be reformed to make it easier for those seeking help to navigate the system, which he described as a system of referrals comprised of too many entities that simply process applications for benefits.
“What we’re trying to do now is to say we don’t need separate this and that,” Kasich said. “We want to collapse everything into one.”
Eugene Rose, executive director of Warren County Community Services, said he was invigorated by the governor’s comments.
“I really enjoy hearing about any streamlining of government,” Rose said. “In my view, that’s good on all levels because so many people are on different government programs. It becomes wildly expensive for taxpayers, but more importantly, the people who it serves don’t have the skills necessarily to navigate the system.
“By having a one-stop shop, which is what I was hearing from the governor, or a point of contact to get all of the services customized and united in one silo, it’s going to benefit that person better, it’s going to cost less, it’s going to get them on their feet faster.”
Stimulating the economy will be key to getting people dependent on social services back on their feet, Kasich said.
“If we don’t have economic growth, nothing works,” he said, adding that his budget proposals to cut income taxes and expand sales and other taxes are designed to stimulate the economy and create more jobs.
Despite a sharp decline in the statewide unemployment rate, the state still needs to recoup hundreds of thousands of jobs to return to pre-recession employment levels, state jobs data shows.