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State budget cuts will likely hit home

Lawrence Countians receiving help through food stamps or child welfare assistance likely won’t face problems because of Ohio’s current budget crisis.

Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Lawrence Countians receiving help through food stamps or child welfare assistance likely won’t face problems because of Ohio’s current budget crisis.

The fact that agencies face cuts, though, is still a concern, said Buddy Martin, director of the Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services.

"Basically, things like food stamps are federally funded," Martin said. "But the thing the state has to worry about is the state’s money going into other programs."

Disability assistance in some cases, service contracts that incorporate state funds, and anything from some One Stop services to school social workers – all can be affected by Gov. Bob Taft’s and state lawmakers’ budget-balancing action, he said.

On Monday, Gov. Taft said the state has cut the upcoming budget as much as it can, and any more reductions would jeopardize essential state services.

Taft and House and Senate lawmakers are struggling to balance the two-year budget by June 30 and pay for a plan to spend an additional $1.4 billion on education. In addition, estimates show that the state faces a $562 million deficit in 2002 and 2003 because of the slowing economy.

Budget cuts won’t directly affect child welfare and key services in counties, Martin said.

"My major concern with the funding cuts is the degree of county flexibility," he said.

Counties are given lots of flexibility with federal funds coming through the state, so if the state cuts its monetary involvement in those programs, then those supplemental programs may have to be toned down, Martin said.

It essentially will force the county to take a look at the services it provides, he said.

The supplemental programs that provide extra help won’t disappear, but they might be affected, he added.

Martin is involved through the statewide Department of Job and Family Services directors’ association in a presenting a case to the legislature that basically requests no cuts in the agency’s service funding.

The theme is basically "don’t mess with success," he said.

"Honestly, we’ve gotten a lot of people off the (welfare) rolls, even with job losses, and it’s not just because people hit their time limits," Martin said.

The department works well, so funding cuts should not be considered, he said.

Proposed cuts affecting Job and Family Services changes daily, so it’s hard to tell what will happen, Martin added.

As the governor and lawmakers continue debates – about everything from lottery money to school funding mandates – Ohioans will have to wait to find out.