- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A state audit calls on Oregon to turn its attention from getting aid to people slammed by the Great Recession to getting them jobs.

The audit from Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office concludes that welfare program managers have failed to hold recipients accountable for missed job appointments and sometimes went years without significant contact with recipients, The Oregonian (http://bit.ly/1jNjjWR) reported.

“During the recession, the Legislature made the right decision to prioritize financial assistance to families living in poverty,” Secretary of State Kate Brown said in a press release. “Now as we pull out of the recession, we need to do everything we can to help the most vulnerable Oregonians participate in Oregon’s economic recovery.”

The audit was released Wednesday. It comes as Oregon continues to struggle with high demand for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the cash welfare program for very poor families. About 91,400 Oregonians in 34,300 families received aid in February, according to the latest state figures.

The number of Oregonians receiving the assistance more than doubled during the recession.

Other states tightened eligibility criteria to conserve dwindling funds, the audit found, but Oregon kept the program doors open in part by slashing money for related jobs programs, reducing subsidies for child care and transportation, doubling caseloads for program managers, and cutting contractors, including ones who helped recipients with addictions and mental health problems.

The director of the Department of Human Services, Erinn Kelley-Siel, wrote in response that during the recession, jobs were scarce for “even the most qualified job-seekers,” so the state made a priority of preserving family stability and a safety net for children.

The department will put money into jobs programs as it becomes available, she said.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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