Sunday, July 19, 2009

Was the Governor's Veto in the Public Interest?

During Governor Strickland's 2008 Ohio Summit on Children, one of the top challenges reported by counties was lack of funding for transitional services for older youth in foster care.

The Independent Living Initiative is the only state program that provides transitional living services to foster care youth. These services include drivers' education, life skills training, job readiness preparation, and food and housing assistance.

Historically, this program was funded by a TANF earmark of 2.5M, administered by ODJFS and implemented by county children services departments. In the Governor's first version of HB1, this funding was cut entirely.

Ohio foster care youth, alumni and advocates urged the legislature to restore funding to FY 2009 levels, or establish a new, non-earmark program to replace it -- and were able to successfully advocate for it to be put back into the budget bill, at a lower amount of 1.5M.

During the process, the source of funding to support this program was transferred to the GRF (General Revenue Fund). Hence, the Governor's concerns about lack of flexibility.

However the wording of the bill as released by the HB 1 conference committee did allow for flexibility, because it stated that:

"...up to $1,500,000 in each fiscal year shall be used to provide independent living services to foster youth and former foster youth between 16 and 21 years of age."

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