LIMA — Public policy changes can be dramatic, prompting political fights and strong words, but more often than not, policy is made quietly and passed without furor. Either way, when policy changes, individuals who use government programs can be affected.
This past month, Allen County Commissioners passed a reworked prevention, retention and contingency plan, or PRC, that changes how families working through financial emergencies may receive government dollars to avoid further disasters. Unlike other social safety net programs, payments are short-term and non-reoccurring, and services outlined in PRC plans are determined county by county.
In Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Hardin, Putnam and Van Wert counties, roughly 2,000 individuals used the PRC program last year to receive funds for training and job support (such as money for necessary work-related purchases) as well as to deal with transportation and housing emergencies.
Allen County’s new plan, which goes into effect in February, updates the dollar amounts that individuals can access.
It also adds a few stipulations to ensure funds are used in the correct way. One such change is adding a 10 percent buy-in for households when it comes to housing or utility assistance. In other words, if a household requests $500 to help with rent, they must pay $50. Allen County Department of Jobs and Family Services Director Joe Patton calls it making sure households have “skin in the game.”
Another change is how the department tries to prepare households for future emergencies.
“We’ve also instituted some financial planning and budgeting to make sure we’re not just putting a band-aid on it,” Patton said. “Each person would make an appointment to go over their budget with a case manager. It takes roughly 45 minutes to an hour, and there’s a quiz to go over with them.”
Bret Crow, director of communications with Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said counties often take steps to ensure households aren’t taking advantage of programs.
“County agencies take program integrity steps to protect taxpayer dollars by requiring a co-payment while others only provide payments to the third party directly (i.e. car repairs are paid to the body shop, rent is paid to the landlord),” Crow said in an email.
“We start a $10 a month savings to try to build another cushion if there is another emergency. It’s changing living day to day to planning month to month in the future,” Patton said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.