Rethink Work Incentive Plan

If you ever have been unemployed, then found a new job, chances are you were overjoyed. Perhaps that meant you could stop receiving government benefits and get back on your own two feet. In all likelihood, the only reward you expected was a paycheck.

What if, after three months on the job, you received a $100 check from the state? And what if, after six months, you got another $500?

You’d probably be very surprised.

That very thing is happening in Northwest Ohio. There, the Allen County Job and Family Services agency is rewarding people for not quitting their jobs.

Through a special pilot program, the state can reward some agencies working to help people find jobs. They receive $1,000 for each person they place in a job, then another $1,500 if the new worker is still employed after three months. Another $1,000 can be doled out at the six-month mark.

Allen County JFS officials decided to use some of the money to reward clients who stick with their jobs. They get the $100 and $500 checks mentioned above.

A JFS official explained the money “could be an additional incentive” for those formerly receiving public assistance to make successes of themselves. It also may be an incentive for those who get jobs to refrain from quitting them and attempting to get back on the public dole (though one wonders how the DFS will react if some of its clients collect their $500 six-month incentives – then quit).

No doubt the $600 in state payments is appreciated by those who collect the money. And for many, especially those in minimum-wage jobs, the cash probably comes in handy.

But the money probably would be a big help to hundreds of thousands of other minimum-wage employees in Ohio – people who work hard for their paychecks, perhaps relying on programs such as food stamps to make ends meet. In their minds, the reward for staying on the job is continuing to receive paychecks.

People who need help ought to receive it, to the extent of our society to provide aid. That includes folks who get jobs then, through no fault of their own, lose them within a few months.

But those who have been helped to get back on their feet should not require incentives to keep walking.

Surely the state has better uses for the incentive money – providing job training for the unemployed and unskilled, maybe? State officials should take another look at programs such as that in Allen County.