Vol. 128 – Special Budget Issue Saturday, May 30, 2009
Public Crowds Senate Chambers for Mixed Budget Testimony
The room was crowded Saturday for a public testimony session in the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee, with several dozen witnesses prepared to either praise changes made Friday to HB1 (Sykes), or to urge the chamber to restore funding to a cut program.
Acknowledging the long day ahead of them, Chairman John Carey (R-Wellston) said that he was invoking his powers as a committee chairman and allowing audience members to bring in water and coffee despite warnings against it outside the hearing room.
Independent Living Initiative
The first group of witnesses testified in support of restoring full funding for the Independent Living Initiative through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
They were Lisa Dickson, founder and communications chair of Ohio's statewide voice for foster care alumni; Doris Edelman, Legislative Liaison for the Ohio Independent Living Association; and Alexander McFarland, President of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board.
All three advocated restoring the funding to $2.5 million in each of FY10-11.
Dickson, a former foster child and youth advocate, said the program had lost its funding but that the Senate had restored $1.5 million of support. She said Ohio is the only state making cuts to such a program, which she said offers training and life services to prepare foster care children to face the world alone.
She said foster children are not a line item and rely on the state to act as a parent. Without proper intervention, Dickson said, those children are at higher risk for poverty, unemployment and incarceration. "Ohio taxpayers will pay for their needs one way or another," she said.
McFarland shared his experience as a child who spent five years in foster care. "Without these services, I would not have been the person that I am today."
Sen. Dale Miller (D-Cleveland) asked more about the funding mechanism. He was told it had been previously funded using TANF money but now is a line item in the children and family services portion of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' (ODJFS) budget.
- Lisa Dickson didn't say that Ohio was the "only state making cuts to such a program." She spoke about the Fostering Connections Act, and how these cuts come at a time when the needs of transitioning foster youth are being recognized on a national level...
- Nor was Independent Living "previously funded using TANF money but now is a line item in the children and family services portion of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' (ODJFS) budget"
It was and still is an earmark of the TANF budget. Both Lisa and Doris mentioned in their testimonies that Independent Living funding in Ohio should not be an earmark, and that young people transitioning out of foster care each year should not have to fight to maintain the only state source of funding allocated to prepare them for adulthood.