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Study: Ohio Benefit Bank Critical During Tough Times

October 27, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A program designed to help Ohioans in need has been doing its job – and doing it well, according to a new study. The Ohio Benefit Bank is a free, Internet-based service that connects low and moderate income residents to more than 20 different assistance programs.

Deputy Director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, Jason Elchert, says since its inception in 2006, the program has helped more than 168,000 people access potentially $368 million in benefits, work supports and tax credits.

"This means economic stimulus to our local communities. It also means that we're able to help stabilize families during this Great Recession and economic downturn."

According to the study, 83 percent of those surveyed had a "good" or "excellent" experience and were pleased with the convenience and accessibility of the program. Elchert says they are now working to reduce application inefficiencies and streamline the process even more. One way is through a new website, which allows Ohioans to submit applications over the internet at www.ohiobenefits.org.

Elchert says it looked, not only at the approval of benefits, but the effects of those benefits over a six-month period of time, in terms of what they mean to the families who received them.

"What we're finding is families are actually more food-secure, so they are able to stand in a grocery store checkout line, rather than standing in one of our food pantry lines."

The study found more than 72 percent of respondents who completed the process at a county agency were approved to receive benefits. Elchert says it is great to see the investments are yielding the results that were expected.

"Previously, there was a bit of a disconnect – where folks who may be helping people complete an application were never quite sure what the end outcome of that application was."

He says this is the largest in-depth study in the nation of application assistance between nonprofit community partners and government agencies. The results are online at www.oashf.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH