Star Beacon (Ohio), July 27, 2008: One in 10 Ohioans utilize public assistance programs

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By STACY MILLBERG – Staff Writer –
Star Beacon

July 27, 2008 06:01 am

The state۪s unemployment rate continues to climb, which may be a contributing factor as to why one in 10 Ohioans are utilizing public assistance programs.
According to statistics recently released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio۪s unemployment rate is the highest it۪s been in 15 years at 6.6 percent. In Ashtabula County the unemployment rate has soared to 7.4 percent. With less people working, more people are looking to public assistance to get by.
In 2007 the Ashtabula County Department of Job and Family Services paid out nearly $15 million in food stamps to eligible county residents, which was an increase of approximately $1 million from 2006, said Patrick Arcaro, DJFS director.
In 2007, there were 5,711 assistance groups, which could mean families or individuals, receiving food stamps each month. So far this year (through June) there are 6,306 assistance groups receiving food stamps each month, he said.
“The economy is the main contributor,” Arcaro said. “There are jobs out there, but a lot of our population is undertrained. We put people in jobs but a lot of the time, they don۪t fit or they don۪t last.”
Arcaro said he expects the unemployment rate in the area to continue to rise because it is seasonally adjusted.
“Ashtabula suffers by being flacked by wealthy neighboring counties,” he said.
The unemployment rate in Lake County is 6.9 percent and in Geauga County it is at 6.3 percent. Arcaro said 87 out of the 88 counties in the state had higher unemployment rates in June. The state has since been working on putting together an anti-poverty task force to categorize ways to help people in need, he said.
“It۪s a problem, but it۪s everywhere,” Arcaro said. “Neighboring counties and neighboring cities are going through the same thing we are, but Ashtabula County is always a little more behind.”
The DJFS works daily to assist county residents experiencing hard times. There are many assistance programs offered, each with varying eligibility requirements. For example, aside from food stamps, there are temporary cash assistance programs, transportation programs which include gas cards, medical card programs and assistance with rent and utilities among other programs, he said.
The DJFS also caters to job placement at its Job Source location on Lake Avenue. Individuals can receive assistance with resume writing, education and training to assist them in getting a job, he said.
DJFS in cooperation with the Cleveland Food Bank also has hosted four food distributions since last year which provided food to about 1,000 families in the area. Arcaro said DJFS plans to get two more pallets with boxes of food to keep on site.
“We touch every life in Ashtabula County one way or another,” he said.

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