FloridaWorks pushing for return of TANF funds

Published: Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:36 p.m.

Last year, FloridaWorks lost a caseworker to state budget cuts shortly before its caseload of job seekers on cash assistance more than doubled.

This year, the workforce agency is making its case to state and federal elected officials ahead of the state legislative session. Staff and board members met individually this week with local delegates and held an open house for their aides last week.

Executive Director Kim Tesch-Vaught said “our ask” is to restore the $15 million in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families funds cut from the state workforce system.

Workforce agencies use the money to make sure people are fulfilling the work or job training requirements to receive cash assistance, as well as paying for job training, child care, bus passes or gas cards for recipients.

After its funding dropped from $723,000 to $552,000, the workforce board for Alachua and Bradford counties cut a caseworker position, dropping from three to two. Then in October, its caseload jumped to 692 people on cash assistance compared with 271 in October 2012.

Tesch-Vaught said the spike came after the application process moved online, making it as easy as clicking a button.

Before that, she said FloridaWorks worked with people before they applied for cash assistance to explain the rigorous job requirements, show them what jobs are available and offer career services such as resume assistance and training programs.

That led many to decide “to be more energetic in their employment search” instead of going on welfare, she said.

Besides advocating for the TANF funding, Tesch-Vaught said FloridaWorks wants to educate politicians about the role of the workforce development system in economic development and the services and programs FloridaWorks provides for employers and job seekers.

Board member Jim Painter, chairman of FloridaWorks' legislative committee, said his goal is to make sure legislators have a better understanding of workforce issues that progress through legislation, “or at least they come back to us as a resource if they have a workforce question. Don't ask in Tallahassee. Ask us locally how it affects us.”

The board is also expressing concern over proposals at the state and federal level to create larger and fewer regional workforce boards. Florida has 24 workforce regions.

Tesch-Vaught said larger regions would provide less opportunity to customize services to local needs.

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