What is happening to welfare recipients in Cuyahoga County and Ohio? A recent report by the Council of Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland found that from June 1996 to June 1997 Cuyahoga County created 11,760 jobs while 16,639 people were cut from the Food Stamp program. The report also found that in 23 of Ohio’s 88 counties, the number of families cut from the cash assistance to families program (now wishfully called Ohio Works First formerly Aid to Dependent Children) in the same time period was larger than the number of jobs created. The report emphatically states that the data from the report establishes, "that Ohio is not moving families from welfare to work. People are being cut from welfare regardless of whether they find a job, and many tens of thousands of Ohio families are not finding employment after being cut from cash welfare."
Cuyahoga County and Ohio are lagging behind the rest of the United States in job creation and yet we are rushing ahead in reducing the welfare rolls. As happened in the early 1990s when we cut General Assistance to single adults, we have no idea what is happening to those cut from the roles. Are they homeless? Did they move out of Ohio? Did they move back with family? Did they find a job? How can we craft a welfare system that moves people into more self-reliance if we don’t have any information about those leaving assistance programs?
The welfare cuts have a significant impact on a community. Consider that three areas, Glenville, Hough, and East Cleveland have each had over $10 million withdrawn from their community between 1994 to 1997 because of the reduction in food stamps and welfare cash assistance. If we do not begin to create public sector jobs or offer local direct assistance to families, we are going to see the City of Cleveland’s high poverty rate (hovering at 40 percent of the population) increase. There will be neighborhoods in Cleveland that will be absolutely desolate areas with no stores or shops and a massive exodus of people to suburbs or out of the state.
The City of Cleveland should take the lead in monitoring the impact of welfare reform on its citizens. A plan needs to be in place before many of our citizens reach their lifetime limit on receiving aid.
Randy Cunningham Valerie Robinson
Cunningham and Robinson are members of the STOP Coalition (Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor).
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25