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State budget may mean ‘significant cut’ for LCDJFS

Ohio has a new state budget and while lawmakers may be breathing a sigh of relief at having inked a new spending plan, county officials are still nervously waiting for specific details on how that new state budget will affect them and their budget.

Lawrence County Job and Family Services Director Gene Myers told the Lawrence County Commission Tuesday he does not have any figures yet for his office’s allocation, but he is anticipating a “significant cut” in funding in every area of service. He fears funding for Children’s Services and Adult Protective Services — funding for the most vulnerable of all his clients — will be hit the hardest by the state cuts.

“How deep the cuts are, I don’t know,” Myers told the commissioners. “We have to wait and see what is allocated and go from there. But I feel it will be significant. I think everyone knows it will be significant.”

How will this affect those who come to his office seeking help during the economic recession? Myers said they will likely see a longer wait to get help. The line is already getting longer: The county JFS office normally handles 3,300 to 3,500 clients each month. The number of monthly cases has increased by roughly 1,000 since March.

Myers said he does not know yet if the cuts will force more layoffs. The JFS staff has dwindled over the years from 130 people in 2003 to 88 today. County officials hope changes enacted earlier in the year may help ease some of the hurt from the budget cuts. Six employees were laid off and both union and non-union employees agreed to several concessions, including giving up seven paid holidays each year and cashouts for unused sick days.

If Lawrence County is anticipating pain, it is in good company. Commissioner Jason Stephens pointed out that other counties are looking at massive layoffs because of the effect the state budget will have on their JFS offices.

“Belmont County is roughly the same size as Lawrence County and 20-plus are being laid off. Gallia County has, I think, 53 employees and they’re probably laying off 21, 22 employees,” he said.