New program aims to bring Ohioans off government assistance, into jobs

By John Bush -

LIMA — A new employment program that aims to break the cycle of poverty for young Ohioans living on government assistance has been introduced locally, and with some early success.

The Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program provides employment and training services to eligible, low-income individuals based on a comprehensive assessment of employment and training needs, as well as a basic skills assessment. It is meant specifically for 16 to 24 year olds.

Participants are provided services to support goals outlined in their individual opportunity plan, which may include support to obtain a high school diploma, job placement, work experience and other supportive services such as child care and transportation.

Jessie Garrity, workforce development supervisor at OhioMeansJobs-Allen County, said one of the main goals of this initiative is to break down barriers to employment.

“It’s an in-depth assessment to really find out what their barriers are, and to work with our providers to help them identify and overcome those barriers,” Garrity said.

She said the most common barriers to employment include parental responsibilities, a past criminal record, lack of transportation and a family history of receiving public assistance.

“We’re trying to break the cycle of being on public assistance, and giving people the job-readiness skills they need to obtain long-term employment,” she said. “For us, we’ve seen a lot of success in the short amount of time it’s been running.”

So far, seven individuals in Allen County have been able to find employment through the program. She said many have found jobs in the health care field, while others have obtained employment in the manufacturing and logistics industries. There are 25 other CCMEP participants currently involved in the program.

A participant is considered to have completed the program when he or she has obtained employment, successfully entered post-secondary education, enlisted in the military, or been awarded Social Security disability insurance and applied for services with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. A participant may be required to leave the program if they repeatedly fail to meet commitments outlined in their individual opportunity plan.

Participants exiting the program will receive follow-up services for a minimum of a year. Follow-up services may include leadership development, assistance addressing work-related problems, mentoring, or work-related peer support groups.

Individuals ages 16 to 24 are required to participate in CCMEP if they are low-income, are considered to have a barrier to employment and have registered with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Youth program or the Ohio Works First initiative.

In addition, individuals ages 16 to 24 may volunteer for CCMEP if they participate in the OWF initiative and are not work eligible, or if they received benefits through the Prevention, Retention and Contingency program.

Garrity said the most difficult challenge is getting the individuals who are mandated to participate in the program to follow through with it.

“It’s about changing the mindset,” she said. “Individuals are so used to being on public assistance because their parents or grandparents were on it, and some don’t know anyone that’s ever had a job. We’re trying to get them to overcome that mindset by showing all the benefits of not being on public assistance.

“It’s a process, and it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. But I think it’s a really good program.”

By John Bush

Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima

Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima