Budget cuts passed on by the state are making it more difficult for Wood County to take care of its most
financially vulnerable residents.
The Wood County Department of Job and Family Services has had to cut back on assistance it normally
provides to low income families with children who need help with rental expenses, car repairs and major
home appliance repairs.
Paulette Stephens, director of the department, reported to the county commissioners last week that
funding cuts from the state have made it impossible for her office to continue helping local residents
meet all those needs.
Last year, the Prevention, Retention and Contingency funding provided $1.3 million in emergency
assistance to families with children. That fund has been cut 18 percent by the state – meaning nearly
$240,000 less the county will have to hand out to low income families struggling to make ends meet.
And according to Stephens, that initial cut from the state may be just the beginning of the slashing.
"We’re hearing from the state that another cut is coming," Stephens said. "So we’re trying
to get out ahead of this."
The cuts have led Job and Family Services offices in some counties to suspend all emergency assistance to
low income families, she said.
"We’re not there, and we’re trying to do as much as we can with what we get," Stephens said.
So the Wood County department is cutting services that other local agencies or organizations might be
able to pick up, so the impact is hoped to be minimal, she explained. So far, the local cuts include:
Reducing rental assistance from once a year to once every two years.
Decreasing the amount of money for car repairs from $2,000 to $1,500.
Getting rid of its major appliance repair program.
"It’s a sign of the times," Stephens said of the decreased services. Making it even more
difficult is the fact that these cuts come as the requests for help are escalating in the county.
Stephens said her staff is feeling the stress of increased demands from local residents in need.
"We’re hanging in with the staff we have," she said.
Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said the report of the program cuts was sobering, but not
"The good part for Wood County is that Paulette and her staff have been very proactive," Kalmar
said, noting that several counties in Ohio have suspended their emergency assistance completely.
"We can still help people in need," he said.
Portions of the local assistance program, including help with utilities and gasoline, will remain as
robust as in the past. Following is a list of how the $1.3 million was spent last year:
$510,412 for utilities assistance.
$382,432 for gasoline or gas cards.
$231,391 for car repairs.
$131,615 for rental assistance.
$45,087 for home appliance repairs.
$841 for clothing needs.