- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A coalition of health and human services advocates pushed Thursday for state lawmakers to direct more money in Ohio’s budget to tackling elder abuse, hunger and other issues related to poverty.

The request from the members of the Advocates for Ohio’s Future coalition comes as the state Senate prepares to release its initial changes to the $71.5 billion, two-year spending plan on Monday. The House passed its version in April. The budget must be in place by June 30.

The group’s members, who serve some of the state’s neediest populations, have called for additional resources to support housing programs, food banks and children services. They also want lawmakers to institute a more comprehensive approach to connecting people with jobs and the services they need to help them out of poverty.

“We need targeted investments in our greatest asset - our people,” said Col Owens, a co-chair of the coalition.

The group is seeking an additional $2.75 million each year for hunger relief programs, which would bring the total funding to $20 million annually.

Coalition members also want more money for adult protective services. The current budget proposal includes about $3.5 million per year, though advocates say $20 million per fiscal year is needed to make sure older Ohioans are safe from abuse and exploitation.

The advocates’ other budget priorities include maintaining Republican Gov. John Kasich’s expansion of the Medicaid health program. State lawmakers have so far left funding for the extension in place in the bill.

Owens said some proposed amendments in the Senate address the group’s ideas and concerns, though it’s uncertain whether they will get accepted in the budget bill.

Senate President Keith Faber told reporters Wednesday that senators were still hammering out many revisions to the spending blueprint.

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