Morrow County Job and Family Service (JFS) Director, Don Wake outlined the many changes in the department over the last few years for members of the Morrow County Chamber of Commerce at their December meeting.
Wake spoke briefly about the welfare reform of the 1990’s and how the days of individuals living their entire lives on public assistance are over. Getting people back to work became the goal of the last 15-20 years as Ohio and Morrow County focused on having people become self-sufficient through work.
Two programs that are available to employers in Morrow County are “Ohio Learn to Earn” and “On-the-Job Training Program” (OJT). Workforce Specialist, Lona Helfrich explained that OJT is a federally funded program that helps employers hire and train laid-off workers for full-time, long term employment. Eligible employers are reimbursed up to 50 percent of the wages earned by new trainees. She emphasized that an agreement with the employer and JFS Workforce Specialist needs to be set up before the trainees are hired.
Assistant Director, Sundie Brown spoke about the expanded Medicaid program. Many changes are coming with the Affordable Care Act aka Obama care and the Morrow JFS Department has been working on readiness to help residents who have questions or need help in accessing medical insurance and Medicaid. Since December 9, 2013 Ohio has a new system for applying for Medicaid in the county and throughout the state.
Brown said that applicants who seek Medicaid assistance can apply online now at www.benefits.ohio.gov. They can use a home computer or one that is available at the Morrow County JFS office. She added that individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid can shop for private health insurance through www.HealthCare.gov. Brown said that customers who are not comfortable using the online filing can come in to the county JFS office for a paper application or call the State of Ohio’s Medicaid hotline at 800-324-8680.
Wake spoke about cuts the department has experienced since the recession of 2008-09. Two areas receiving cuts were in food assistance and in the jobs programs. He said there are 50 streams of funding through state, federal and grant sources. About $30 million dollars comes through Morrow County JFS during the year and becomes a part of the local economy in spending for medical attention, food and other purchases.
Major areas of service for JFS are Child Support Enforcement, Family and Children’s services, Income maintenance, Food Assistance, Medicaid, and Workforce Investment for training and Job search. Brown said that more than $71 million dollars came through the Morrow Co. JFS services in 2010 and $63,437,000 came through in 2012. A large portion of these dollars have a major impact on the county’s economy in purchases, medical and other services.
Wake spoke about the “Collabor8” program that has helped their department with all the cuts in state and federal dollars. This is a collaboration of seven counties that work together to share some services such as the telephone call center. The virtual call center allows residents to call one toll free number in any of the seven counties (Delaware, Hancock, Knox, Marion, Morrow, Sandusky and Wood) to apply for cash, food and medical assistance.
Wake said that the call center with Collabor8 makes it easier for clients to apply for assistance and cuts down on the number of visits required in speaking to a caseworker. They have had a very positive response to the program, “people can apply in their pajamas now,” Wake joked. This program also allowed the Morrow Dept. of JFS to keep many of its jobs in the county despite cuts. There are now 50 on the staff of Morrow County JFS with 8 part-time.
Morrow County Job and Family Services is one of 28 counties in the state to have been awarded Accreditation. Wake is very pleased they have been able to do that despite decreased funding. For more information about any of the assistance programs the county website is www.morrowjfs.com or www.benefits.ohio.gov for extended Medicaid assistance or www.HealthCare.gov for the federal insurance marketplace. Morrow County JFS is in the Community Services Building at 619 W. Marion Rd. in Mount Gilead. Phone: 419-947-9111.
Agency hours are Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.