Those seeking assistance through food stamps, Medicaid and the Ohio Works First program will apply online for benefits via the state website, download an application from the county website or call JFS for an application. Once it is in, a case worker will call the client, said Job and Family Services Director Jerome Kearns.
Then they won’t have to navigate Hamilton or Middletown, find a parking spot, wait for a case worker and spend 30 to 40 minutes with the case worker. Instead, they’ll be able to be helped with a 15- to 20-minute phone call once the application is received.
“The more we can get done up front ... we can process the case quicker and benefits can begin,” said Kearns.
Clients will still need to provide all necessary documents, but can send them via mail, e-mail or fax.
Kearns recognizes there is a “digital divide” among JFS clients, however, “we do find there are people that do have access to (technology),” he said. And for those without technological access, Kearns said his department will accommodate them.
“What we can gain in efficiency for our clients is tremendous,” said Kearns, adding there are security measures with the phone calls to prevent fraud and protect clients.
Montgomery County JFS have been processing online applications via the sate website for about a year, but it’s been “a slow process,” said spokeswoman Ann Stevens. She said the number of online applications fall short of expectations, but that the ability to go online is a benefit for clients.
“It also reduces the stress,” she said. “Hopefully it will encourage people to ask for help, or a hand up, when they are reluctant.”
Kearns said any Butler County client requesting a face-to-face interview will be accommodated.