A federal mandate led Delaware County commissioners on Nov. 21 to approve a plan for the county's department of job and family services, aimed at improving work participation rates.

A federal mandate led Delaware County commissioners on Nov. 21 to approve a plan for the county’s department of job and family services, aimed at improving work participation rates.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified Ohio it failed to meet federal work participation rates for its cash assistance programs in 2007, 2008 and 2009, said Angela Thomas, the county’s acting director of job and family services.

In Delaware County, about 336 households receive cash assistance, averaging $365 per month. To qualify, they must earn no more than 50 percent of the federal poverty limit and have children, Thomas said. Many of these families earn less than $7,000 per year.

“In order to receive these benefits, members of these households are required to participate in work activities such as on-the-job training, community service and education related directly to employment,” Thomas said.

Unless participation rates are improved statewide, Ohio is at risk of losing more than $37 million in federal grant money. As one of 87 counties that didn’t meet the participation requirement, Delaware County must submit a corrective compliance plan, explaining how the department will improve its participation rates.

Commissioners approved the submitted plan with a unanimous vote.

The plan explains how internal procedures within the department have changed to maximize efficiency, providing counselors more time to manage their case loads. In addition, the department has tasked a special project manager with providing case audits.

The department also is investigating an automated case tracking system. Many of these procedures were put in place by Oct. 31, Thomas said.

“We are confident that these corrective measures will bring Delaware County into compliance,” she said.

Also at the Nov. 21 meeting, commissioners vote 2-1 to set a re-bid for improvements to the county EMS station at 7177 Northgate Way near Westerville.

All bids received for the initial project came in more than 10 percent over estimate, requiring the commissioners to reject the bids, said Jon Melvin, county facilities supervisor.

Instead of asking the commissioners to increase the budget for the project, Melvin said he worked with the architect to scale back the plans and make them more affordable.

“We pared the design down to the budget,” Melvin said.

The end result will still be a “very workable” station, he said.

“We’re very confident that this will come in under the estimate,” Melvin said.

Commissioner Dennis Stapleton cast the lone vote against re-opening bids for the project, saying he has never thought the location was right for a county EMS station.

Bids for the project will open at 10 a.m. Dec. 14.