MOUNT VERNON — Welfare is a sobering reality for many. But fortunately for Knox County residents, numerous sources of assistance are available, chiefly through the Knox County Office of Jobs & Family Services.
Eligibility for welfare benefits through JFS is based on income per family size. Guidelines are established and updated on an annual basis. Benefits are awarded through different programs in the forms of cash, food stamps and Medicaid.
The food stamp program in Knox County is in place to raise the level of nutrition and to safeguard families’ well-being and health. Eligibility is based on income as well as shelter expenses, medical expenses and resources.
Food assistance is considered to be an entitlement and can continue indefinitely, as long as families qualify. Those in Knox County are currently receiving an average of a little more than $1 million per month in the food stamp program. In 2011, a total of $13.3 million was awarded to beneficiaries in food assistance. The recent months of June and August both dropped below the $1 million mark, while July hit nearly $1.3 million, mainly due to power outages following the severe windstorm. Food allotments are averaging around $4 per person per day.
Funds are distributed in the form of an EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card which is electronically loaded on the recipients’ card on the first of the month.
Cash assistance is available through the Ohio Works First program for those who are raising children in their home up to age 18. The program requires an adult to work toward self-sufficiency with hours worked applying toward assistance. Knox County residents are currently receiving about $150,000 per month. Cases are reviewed annually, and beneficiaries are required to report any change in income.
Cash payments currently carry a limit of 36 consecutive months of payments and a two-year layoff following. A total of five years of payments is the maximum limit a family can receive in cash benefits. Average payments are less than $4 per day per person.
With a population of around 60,000 people in Knox County, Kurtz reported that an average of 3,500 households, including 7,800 individuals, have received food assistance monthly in 2012. Those receiving cash assistance have been at an average of 390 households including 814 people per month this year. “Some people receive both, but more receive food assistance overall,” said Kurtz.
Funds for money and cash assistance comes from the federal government and is distributed to each state before being sent to each of the counties. Knox County currently kicks in 8.25 percent of the total welfare aid which is included in the county’s annual budget.
Assistance is also available in the form of Medicaid payments for low-income families who qualify. The Covered Families and Children Medical program provides an enhancement to medical services and offers coverage for inpatient and outpatient services, dental, optical, physician, podiatry, mental health, prescriptions, pregnancies and various other services. In 2011, more than $105 million was paid out to Knox County Medicaid beneficiaries.
“People don’t come here because we give them more assistance. It’s more so that our assistance goes further,” explained Kurtz. “Your money is going further that you get from public assistance. Because of the compassion of this community, there are a lot more things here than in the big cities.” Kurtz pointed out numerous supplemental programs available in the county that offer assistance including Interchurch Social Services, Salvation Army, Food For the Hungry and the daily option for hot meals at numerous churches around the county.
Kurtz compared the availability of options in Franklin County in comparison to that in Knox County. While there may be 100 food pantries in the Columbus area, there is also a population of one million people. “That’s 100,000 people that they are responsible for. While we have three food pantries in the area and a (city of Mount Vernon) population of 15,000 ... that’s 5,000 people they may have to serve,” said Kurtz. He also pointed out the ease of walking to numerous locations in the area for assistance, meaning less time driving a car or paying for a bus ride. Cost of living in terms of housing and utilities can also be lower in Knox County in comparison to other counties.
Those who wish to apply for benefits are encouraged to complete an application at the Knox County office of Jobs & Family Services or online at ODJFSbenefits.ohio.gov.
Contact Alan ReedEmail
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