Battling the Welfare Department

Editor’s Note: Julie Star has documented her battles with the Ohio Department of Human Services on the internet. She originally was appealing her workfare assignment claiming that she was making less than the minimum wage laws, and this is when her troubles began with the Ohio Department of Human Services.

By Julie Star

I thought you might be interested in how workfare implementation is going out here in the trenches. I spoke with the man in charge of imposing sanctions at our local Human Services Department again today. After mentioning the words “state hearing” and implying that I probably wouldn’t be jumping to come in and sign their compliance form—stating that any “further infringements” would result in more sanctions, he said that there might be an “alternative.”

He spoke with his supervisor and they agreed that if I was to get statements from all my instructors verifying my attendance and that they saw and signed my time sheet that they would be willing to take those statements into consideration for good cause. He also told me that he had checked with their financial person and verified that I had indeed sent her a check for which she had written me a receipt for 4/ 3/ 98 which means that chances are I did send in my time sheet in on the same day and on time. It looks like my sanction should be dropped after I turn in my instructor‘s statements.

I am a welfare recipient who recently went up against the Ohio Department of Human Services in an attempt to get them to comply with Minimum Wage Laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act. When it was all said and done the state did decide to comply before we got to the point of class action (lawsuit). Unfortunately for me they weren’t very happy with me for making them look bad.

Well, they finally found a way to get even! I get a sanction letter in the mail today out of the blue saying that I am going to be sanctioned from cash assistance for the month of MAY three days before I am supposed to get a check! I should have known better but I mailed my time sheets to them this month instead of dropping them off in person and getting a receipt so that I had proof I turned them in. I complied with every work fare hour and school hour I was required to do but because my time sheet for school was conveniently lost in the mail and they supposedly didn’t receive it by the 7th we lose $400.

I called the jobs supervisor to ask him what was going on and told him that I had mailed it to my caseworker. He hadn’t even checked with her to see if she had seen it. He just looked in my case and it wasn’t there so even though I have never had a time sheet late in 24 months I lose 2/3 of our income for now he says the month of June. They can’t even get their dates right on their own paperwork but I have to make sure I get every piece of paper to them on time.

Who is going to sanction all of them for the mistake on my paperwork making me think that in three days we won’t be getting a check. These people should at least have to call you to see why they don’t have your time sheet when this has never happened before! Some democracy. I suppose I’ll have to file for another state hearing. I can’t just let this go without a fight. IT ISN’T FAIR!! Are they so perfect? I could see if I had missed hours but I didn’t. So much for a case by case basis!!!!!

Good news bad news. I finally received a letter from the Sandusky County Department of Human Services on Saturday voiding my sanction. I guess they just wanted to let me sweat a little since my reap was today. The bad news is they were able to assign me to an additional 39 hours per month when I signed my new contract today.

Since my daughter’s father isn’t keeping up on his child support, the new minimum wage calculation we got them to comply with came out to 9 hours more per week than I was doing. Now I have to work 29 workfare hours per week plus my 9 school hours per week, are mandatory. Just when I was trying to get ahead some in schoolwork because my daughter is going to need another ear surgery.

I think it’s pretty bad that when we as mothers don’t “do what we’re supposed to” we get nailed but when the fathers don’t do what they’re supposed to, we get nailed as well. I got a thought why not make the fathers do the extra workfare hours when they don’t pay, instead of us. It’s something to think about.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 27 May 1998