Montgomery County Leaders Discuss Public Support Needs

On Monday, Montgomery County leaders asked state legislators to support initiatives that provide additional local government funding for social safety net programs as funding for the pandemic dwindles.

Approximately $2.6 million was spent to host children’s services in Montgomery County last year, and nearly 80,000 county residents benefit from government assistance to access food.

“As we review the state budget bill, we wanted to talk about how we can be a better partner,” Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert told lawmakers and other community leaders who gathered at the Westtown Employment Opportunity Center to discuss the county’s strategic priorities.

The Montgomery County Commission said it will need funding for in-prison mental health, workforce programming, food availability, child services placement options, and more.

Like the rest of the country, Montgomery County has seen an increase in spending on employment services through children’s services. Colbert said service workers are getting “more and more kids and more and more calls” every day.

“All of you must have seen the problems we had with Children Services,” he said. “Post-Covid children have been disconnected from school. We have kids with anger issues. You have kids who have family trauma at home.”

Colbert also warned of the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food insecurity. The pandemic-driven Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allocation of money ended earlier this year, and Colbert said the county is preparing for a rollback.

“These people will suffer at a time when food prices have never been higher,” he said.

Nearly 80,000 people receive SNAP benefits in Montgomery County, and nearly 180,000 receive Medicaid, Colbert said.

Colbert asked lawmakers to increase support for regional food banks and other non-profit organizations that provide access to food.

Another priority identified by the county’s funding needs committee is workforce development, including increased funding for youth development and job flexibility, including childcare for Montgomery County workers.

Colbert said the county wants to use programming to help teens find and keep jobs.

Other priorities include funding for the Healthy Beginnings Home project, which provided housing services for pregnant women at high risk of infant mortality, and the Ohio Housing Trust, which supports local homeless people and housing services.

Montgomery County leaders also opposed HB 1, which would eliminate income tax rates that apply to non-profit income and instead levy a flat tax rate of $360.69 plus 2.75% on all income over $26,050.

Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said the bill’s goal is to make Ohio more competitive with states that don’t collect income taxes, but she worries that the bill’s passage will affect property taxes.

“When you look at what he will do, he will raise property taxes, there is no doubt about that,” Lieberman said. “Money has to come from somewhere.”

Rep. Tom Young, R-Washington, who attended Monday’s luncheon, said he’s in tune with what Montgomery County leaders are asking for and that the state has a rainy day fund. He said he thought the “rain” hadn’t started yet.

“The day of reckoning is coming,” he said. “These are good times. We need to prepare for the bad, because it’s just around the corner.”

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