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Ohio Works First Assistance

What is Ohio Works First?

Ohio Works First is time-limited cash assistance to eligible families through Ohio's Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, which emphasizes:     
  • Employment    
  • Personal Responsibility    
  • Self Sufficiency
If you qualify, the amount of assistance you receive will be based on the number of people in your family and your family’s income. You will receive the benefits through the Ohio Pathways card. It’s important to note that OWF cash benefits are limited to thirty six months. For "child only" cases there is no time limit.  After you have used thirty-six months of assistance, other benefits such as children’s health insurance, food assistance, and subsidized child care may still be available to you and your family.

You will be required to participate in employment activities for a required number of hours every month that you receive assistance. Your caseworker will connect you to a wide variety of programs to help you find a job, improve your skills, or find a better job. These activities may include volunteer work to help you develop a work history and good job reference, looking for a job, school, or a job training program. Your worker will develop a plan with you and ask you to sign a self sufficiency contract that explains your and your worker's responsibilities. If you don’t attend your program every day, your assistance may be stopped.

NOTE: You cannot receive child support AND cash assistance at the same time. If you receive case assistance the State will keep any child support payments you are receiving.

Do I qualify?

OWF is available to families living with at least one minor child or pregnant women. You must be the parent or specified relative of a minor child living in your household. A specified parent can be a grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, first cousin, stepparent, or stepsibling.

Eligibility is determined by your household income and by the number of people in the family.
You are not eligible if you are: a single individual with no children, a family with no minor children, non-U.S. citizens or non-qualified aliens, fugitive felons, and those convicted of program fraud when repayment has not yet occurred.

How do I apply for OWF?

Applying for cash assistance is a five step process:
  1. Complete an eligibility interview to review your personal circumstances, the OWF program and other alternatives to cash assistance.
  2. Receive a referral for a Child Support Interview, if it is needed to establish paternity and support for each of your children.
  3. Complete a Pre-Employment Screen that will assess your strengths and barriers to participating in activities and ultimately finding employment.
  4. Complete an Assessment and Assignment interview to determine your required work activities, complete your Self-Sufficiency Contract and Plan, and apply for child care benefits if needed.
  5. All new OWF applicants, with few exceptions, are required to successfully complete the Applicant Job Readiness program before benefits are approved. If you are already working or in school, talk to your worker, you may not have to attend.
You may apply for OWF cash assistance in person at any one of the six Neighborhood Family Service Centers, by calling for an application, or by downloading an application from our website. Appointments will be scheduled at the Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Center at the Virgil Brown Building located at 1641 Payne Avenue.

Call (216) 987-7000 to have an application mailed to you or complete the application form by downloading the Request for Cash, Medical and Food Stamp Assistance Form 

  • Click here to download Application 7200* (Request For Cash, Medical And Food Stamp Assistance Form)
  • Click here for information in Spanish En Español  

2013 Programming Overview

Pre-Employment Screen (PES)

The Pre-Employment Screen (PES) is part of the OWF application process. New applicants meet with a licensed professional prior to their OWF eligibility appointment to identify client strengths and barriers to employment; assess motivation and job readiness; and make recommendations regarding the type of work activities that are most appropriate for the participant. The interview covers topics including work history, education, family support, domestic violence, work skills, learning challenges, basic needs, career interests, alcohol and other drug (AOD) use/abuse, criminal history, and mental health (MH).

Applicant Job Readiness (AJR)

The Applicant Job Readiness (AJR) program is designed to provide OWF applicants “options” to cash assistance through employment opportunities. AJR is five day program with daily  start dates. Each day has a defined self-contained curriculum and is a combination of classroom instruction and hands on computer activities offering the applicant a foundation in job search techniques, interview techniques, job applications and resumes, and workplace expectations. Applicants must complete five consecutive days in order to be eligible for OWF.

Earning and Learning Lab

The Earning & Learning Lab offers computer-based core (job readiness and independent job search) and non-core (job skills training and education related to employment) activities.  A variety of curricula will is used including ODJFS’ Learning Express library, which includes modules that cover job search, GED preparation, college preparation, software tutorials, jobs and careers, and skill building.  The lab also offers a variety of workshops to complement the computer-based training.
Job Readiness/Job Search (JR/JS) & Placement

JRJS & Placement programs
develop both the personal and professional skills of participants so they may be successful on the job. A portion of the job readiness curriculum is tailored to each participant’s individuals needs and participants will demonstrate competency of soft skill development. The classroom phase runs 2-4 weeks, after which participants will engage in an unpaid internship for up to 180 days. Individuals who do not obtain employment during the internship phase will then engage in job search activities. Job Readiness Job Search & Placement (JR/JS) is intended for those who have some work history, a HSD/GED, and are motivated to work.

Vocational Education and Training may be accessed two ways: through the Department of Workforce Development/Employment Connection (ITA) or through a school with which CJFS has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). An MOU is an agreement between the school and CJFS that the school will report participant attendance at least monthly.

ITA: Participants referred for training through the Employment Connection must have their GED or high school diploma will be required to take the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) and test at an 8th grade reading and math level. Programs are generally short term in nature and include healthcare, clerical, law enforcement, and computer training.

MOU: Participants already enrolled in school or a training program must notify their worker when they apply for benefits. If CJFS does not have an MOU agreement with the school, the set up process can be initiated by either the CJFS worker or the school. If the school is not willing to establish an MOU, the participant will be responsible for obtaining verified attendance on a monthly basis.

OJT: On-the-Job Training is available to a limited number of highly motivated participants in possession of a HSD/GED who would benefit from OJT in order to secure full-time unsubsidized employment. Individuals will be assessed by Employment Connection staff and those determined eligible will be placed at a training site for not less than 32 hours per week, earning a wage of no less than $10.00 an hour. All OJT’s are trainee specific, with the end goal of securing permanent, full-time employment.

Work Experience Program (WEP)

WEP consists of 3-6 months of unpaid work experience in the public or private sector which enables participants to “practice” work, gain valuable soft skills, hard skills, knowledge and training. In addition, participants gain recent work experience to include on their resume and a positive job reference needed for success in his/her job search. Work performed in WEP is similar to work normally paid to employees in that job. WEP participants are held to the same performance expectations as that of paid employees including punctuality, dependability, professional appearance, and good customer service. WEP is offered full or part time, and can be assigned in conjunction with other activities, including employment, vocational education, GED preparation, or job skills training . WEP is designed for individuals who need to update their work history and obtain a positive job reference in order to be successful in their job search.

Specialized Programming

Intensive Case Management (ICM) is a program geared toward individuals who are unable to participate in employment or training activities due to a significant barrier(s) to employment. These barriers may include long-term physical disabilities, drug or alcohol problems, mental health issues, or severe learning disabilities. Individuals referred to this program work intensively, one-on-one with licensed social workers to identify and remove the barriers to employment or assist participants in securing Social Security benefits, if eligible.

Refugee Social Services includes language training and employment related programs designed to address the special needs of refugees and to assist families and individuals in moving towards economic and social self-sufficiency. Services include employability assessments, ESL classes, vocational training, interpretation/translation services, health related services, and transportation assistance.

Home Visiting  services provide outreach, resources and referrals to families throughout the community who are about to exhaust their cash benefits or have lost cash due to a second or third tier sanction.  Each month between 150 and 200 or more families lose cash assistance and face challenges caring for themselves and their families.  The purpose of the program is to protect the safety of children at risk, re-engage families still in need of OWF cash, link families to community resources, and assist participants in achieving self-sufficiency.