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Hitting where it hurts

Matt Westerhold • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:28 PM

The irony is just when you need them most, budget cuts for the Erie County Jobs and Family Services agency, and peer agencies across the five-county region, make it more difficult to provide all the services agency workers would like to provide.

And many new clients of the agency have never before needed job search assistance or any of the other services caseworkers provide.

"We're getting big increases in the number of phone calls and people coming in," agency director Judy Englehart said Friday. "These are people who have never been unemployed before. They're not wanting to be here, but the door to the plant was locked and they have few choices."

A big percentage of the funding for the county agency comes from Columbus, Englehart said, and it's still not clear how much could be cut. "Right now it's like a shell game with the numbers changing and being moved around," she said. "It's hard to keep up with."

Erie County JFS could lose close to $600,000 in state funding this year, she said, and Huron County's loss might be $684,000. The unemployment rate in Erie County recently hit 14.1 percent, Ottawa County's was 17 percent, and Huron County had the highest unemployment rate of all 88 Ohio counties at 18.3 percent. It's a perfect storm of bad news for everyone, and it seems we're in it together.

Reporter Tom Jackson's story this Sunday, "Will work for whatever," will give a lot more information, but there are billions of dollar bills being ordered up out of Washington to help. I only hope U.S. senators Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur take a hard look at this funding gap and find a way to put that money where it's needed most ... here at home.

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