Communities focused on helping folks lift themselves out of poverty

Testimony of State Rep. Ron Amstutz
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Before the Ohio House Community and Family Advancement Committee

Chairman Derickson, Ranking Member Howse, and members of the committee, I’m excited about the opportunity to join Representative Derickson to introduce you to HB 196, the Healthier Buckeye initiative.

As the chairman indicated, this initiative has at its core the objective of working with our local communities to help more of our struggling constituents move into self and family sufficiency in the workforce. It is a critical part of the emerging work to refresh the reforms to our welfare system 20 years ago in the mid-90’s.

Process purpose for HB 196

In the interest of full transparency, this bill is an effort to better prepare for the work of the conference committee on the budget in June. I want to be very clear that this is NOT about intruding in the Senate’s work on the budget.  The goal here is to engage interested parties, including our executive partners, in working this language toward any revisions it may need, seeking consensus for conference committee.  I would invite the committee and any other members with a special interest in this to participate.

HB 196 language origination

As for the bill itself -- it brings back the administration’s proposed comprehensive case management and employment plans with some revisions.  Although this was removed from the House version, we do like it and you will find it here, almost word for word in large part.  But it is reorganized and proposed for Revised Code, rather than temporary law.  

 

The other change, and this is the biggest change, is a proposal to bring the state Healthier Buckeye Council into an expanded role to approve the comprehensive case management and employment program as well as the evaluation system that would be used to measure progress at the county level. The goal here is to promote a collaborative process in developing these programs.

 

In addition to bringing back the comprehensive case management program the bill includes, for further work in committee, Revised Code language from our House-passed budget -- HB 64 --  relating to Healthier Buckeye. Again, the objective is to further vet this language in preparation for the budget committee on conference in June.

Two complementary initiatives

It will be helpful to know some more about the Comprehensive Case Management Program and Healthier Buckeye. They have significant differences, but we should think of them as complementary to each other.

Here are some of the contrasts:

  • Entitlement vs. non-entitlement: Case management will need to stay to those who are eligible for TANF or WIOA and will have limits on its parameters, given that it involves use of federal funds. Healthier Buckeye will be designed and operated at the local level, will likely look and operate differently from community to community and will have great flexibility as it can serve individuals outside of TANF and WIOA. For those who might be served by both initiatives, the opportunities on the Healthier Buckeye side could enhance the unique individual employment and life plan.
  • Mandatory vs. voluntary participation: Case management participation in an individual employment plan is mandatory for a substantial number of TANF and WIOA participants, whereas the Healthier Buckeye participation is voluntary and it is envisioned that the focus will be on those whose comprehensive assessment indicates that they are ready to take on the challenges of moving themselves to financial self-sufficiency. This will be interesting to see how the performance goes as data develops over time with these two approaches.
  • JFS/WIOA centric vs. mission-driven private sector: Whereas the case management initiative is going to have the hub centered in the local JFS office,or OhioMeansJobs office, or through a contract to another agency, the Healthier Buckeye initiative may have the hub distributed with different participants, depending on the what makes sense for each individual and available coaching -- for example,  getting their primary coaching from a faith-based retired mentor or a mental health provider or Medicaid managed care employee, or a manufacturer or an educator.
     

Here are a few of the similarities:

  • Intensely person-centered: both initiatives are seeking to have a caseworker or life coach who is committed to taking the participant to resolution with others who are involved in needed elements of resolving barriers and gaps.
  • Serve to resolution: both initiatives envision organizational and provider commitments to serve to resolution, rather than simply referral.
  • Local delivery: both are to be delivered at the community level.
  • Self-sufficiency: both seek to help individuals move up financially to graduate from needing dependency on taxpayer funded support and ideal on a sustainable basis.
  • Data driven: both seek to collect performance data that will help participants, the community and our state to measure its successes.

 

Bill outline

Here is a very simple outline to guide you through the bill:

  1. Healthier Buckeye
  • Local councils:
    • Requiring local healthier buckeye councils - lines 28-96
    • Duties and powers of local healthier buckeye councils - lines 97-142
    • Data reporting by local healthier buckeye councils - lines 143-160
  • Ohio healthier buckeye council (state-level)
    • Expanded makeup of Ohio healthier buckeye council - Lines 378-423
    • Expanded function of Ohio healthier buckeye council - lines 424-466
  • State grant program framework - lines  467-498
  1. Comprehensive case management and employment program
  • Department of Job and Family Services comprehensive case management and employment program provisions - lines 161-280
  • Participant requirements and options - lines 281-348
  • County participation requirements - lines 349-377
  • Strengthening of Prevention, Retention and Contingency program within TANF - lines 499-755

Here is a link to the bill: HB196

I want to emphasize that this introduced bill is not the end product. It is a work that is continuing to progress from the introduced version and from the House-passed version. You and interested parties are invited to join in further efforts to shape what should be done in the code, what should be done in appropriations and other temporary law (none of which is included in this bill), and what should be done outside these formats -- much of which will be at the community level.