Commissioners’ approval helps working poor get to and from work

LISBON – Columbiana County commissioners have approved continued participation in two programs designed to help the working poor get to and from work.

The first agreement approved at last week’s meeting, was between the county Department of Job and Family Services (JFS) and the Community Action Agency, which operates CARTS, the county’s public transportation system.

The JFS will pay CARTS up to $30,000 under the new one-year contract to provide emergency transportation to and from work for income-eligible county residents. Carol Harvey, business office administrator for the JFS, said they set aside $48,000 last year but less people used the program than anticipated, which is why the ceiling amount was cut.

Low-income residents can also use the service to get rides for job training, counseling and job-related child care services.

The other contract approved by commissioners was between the JFS and Smith Oil Co. to also assist the working poor to get to and from work. Under this program, eligible recipients could receive vouchers totaling up to $100 that could only be used to purchase gasoline at Smith Oil gas stations in the county over a 12-month period. Harvey said the ceiling amount last year was also $31,000.

Federal money is the funding source for both programs, and participants cannot earn more than 130 percent of the federal poverty level, which is currently about $31,000 for a household of four.

Commissioners also approved two service contracts related to child support collections between the JFS and county prosecutor’s office and county clerk of courts.

The prosecutor’s office handles child support cases for the JFS, and the amount needed to be increased by $48,532 to $264,233 for the contract period ending Oct. 1 because of the increased caseload, Harvey said. The clerk of courts processes child support cases for the JFS, and the contract extension is for the next year in the amount of $164,535, starting Oct. 1.

The federal government provides two-thirds reimbursement for every dollar the JFS spends processing child support cases and pursuing delinquencies. There are more than 11,000 child support cases in the county.

In other business, commissioners approved the sheriff’s purchase of five new body armor vests for the county drug task force from ATF Worldwide in Lisbon for $6,345.

Acting on the recommendation of the county engineer, commissioners awarded the contract for a bridge project to U.S. Bridge Inc., which was the lowest bidder at $347,569. The bridge to be repaired is on Mechanicstown Road in Hanover Township.

Commissioners also voted to provide the 4-H program with a second infusion of $15,000, with the money coming from the county’s share of state casino tax money.