ODJFS Researching Ways to Generate Data on Companies with Employees Receiving Public Assistance

Gongwer News Service - October 31, 2005

Gongwer News Service

Responding to requests from research groups, the media and politicians, the state’s welfare agency is clarifying the difficulties in developing a system to help identify companies with large numbers of workers receiving public aid but renewed a promise to work toward that goal in the coming weeks.

The Department of Job and Family Services, which earlier this year denied requests for such data on both legal and bureaucratic grounds, has assembled an internal review team led by Chief of Staff China Widener to determine how a quality report may be developed.

The team hopes to reach some conclusions earlier this month on how to move forward with the project, ODJFS spokesman Jon Allen said.

Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based research group, and a couple of major daily newspapers have been seeking employer information data regarding Wal-Mart and other companies in an effort to identify firms with large numbers of workers receiving Medicaid, food stamps and other public aid. The discount retailer in particular has come under criticism for its pay and benefits packages.

ODJFS originally denied the requests, with its senior staff attorney saying the information was confidential and the public affairs office reporting that the data wasn’t retrievable under the current information system. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, October 7, 2005)

“One of the challenges that has been ongoing in this issue is, this information isn’t readily available at the push of a button,” Mr. Allen said. Nonetheless, “The decision from the (Director Barbara Riley’s) office is we would attempt to create this on our own… because of the interest in this topic.”

Among the challenges is that fact that such data is entered at the county level, and a review of the state’s Client Registry Information System-Enhanced (CRIS-E) found, for example, that Wal-Mart was identified in 160 different ways. Some of the differences entailed misspellings of the company’s name.

Mr. Allen said the internal review team would discuss how to resolve that issue and others when it meets later this week.

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