Saturday, May 10, 2003

Ohio contests unemployment fine

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The federal government is fining Ohio about $1 million over what it calls the state's failure to help more youths find jobs.

The state is appealing the fine, which came despite a plea by Gov. Bob Taft to U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao for more time.

The $933,086 is about 2 percent of the state's annual allotment from the Workforce Investment Act for youth programs.

One program helps teenagers find jobs or prepare for a career. Another helps people ages 19-21 get advanced job training or take college classes.

The Department of Labor said Ohio failed to meet performance goals in three of four categories. For example, only 8.6 percent of participating teens under 18 got diplomas in 2000, while the goal was 55 percent.

The state says the data the federal government used is inaccurate because the state's failed $60 million Ohio Works program didn't collect all the information needed.

Human Services Director Tom Hayes canceled that program shortly after Taft appointed him director in May 2001.

The state will launch a new, federally certified program in July that will provide correct statistics, Hayes said.

The state also made progress from 2000 to 2001 in helping youths, a factor the federal government said in February it would consider in determining any fine.

Taft, a Republican, wrote Chao April 30 asking for time to put the new system in place.

Once that system is running, "we will know if Ohio's low performance is due to a lack of effort or, as I believe, a lack of reporting," Taft wrote. "Either way, you will have better information to base your decisions about sanctions."

Delaware, Missouri and West Virginia were fined 1 percent of their allotments, the Labor Department said:

• Delaware was fined $23,691 for failing to meet goals negotiated with the government over increased earnings of program participants placed in jobs.

• Missouri was fined $159,397 for failing to meet goals involving increased earnings of participants ages 19-21.

• West Virginia was fined $106,016 for failing to meet goals involving teenagers getting basic skills to ready them for work; and for missed goals for teenagers who were placed in and stayed in college classes, jobs or the military.

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