LIMA – The Ohio Means Jobs and Department of Job and Family Services offices in Allen County are evolving as the agencies are increasingly focused on helping the county’s jobless population become less reliant on public assistance.
“We were always a transactional agency,” said Allen County OMJ and JFS Executive Director Joe Patton, who spoke to the Lima Rotary Club on Monday afternoon. “You would come in and get your food stamps. You need some daycare, here’s your daycare. What we weren’t doing was looking at the picture as a whole puzzle, saying how can we affect this person and move them off public assistance.”
That’s changed as the agencies now offer services to help people transition into higher paying jobs, with financial literacy courses and an employment incentive program that fills the so-called “benefits gap” for individuals who lose their public assistance after accepting a raise.
Patton said financial literacy is one of the greatest barriers to employment he’s witnessed while working for OMJ and JFS.
“What happens is they get paid, and they don’t think ahead,” he said. The agency is now using a secular version of Dave Ramsey video seminars to show patrons how to start an emergency fund and manage their money wisely.
The agency still offers basic services such as resume assistance, drug screening and job coaches. It also works with employers, hosting hiring events tailored to individual or small groups of companies and offering grants to employers to train new or incumbent workers.
Patton believes the strategy is working, with fewer families on the county’s public assistance rolls now than five years ago. But much depends on the economy.
“The method does work in a good economy,” he said. “It’s easy to get people back to work.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.