“When you have no money, even three dollars is a lot of money”

Henry left school after the ninth grade to enter the work force, and he has always been determined to give his son more opportunities than he had. “I know how, now, important that it is to be in school, to get that education, so that you don’t have to go through the struggles,” he said. Until 2011, Henry Sellers worked steadfastly to provide for himself and his son, sustaining various lifelong injuries over the course of nearly three decades of employment. When he aggravated a 1986 back injury that year, his doctor told him he could not work anymore. Without this income, Henry and his son had no way of meeting their most basic needs. “When you have no money, even three dollars is a lot of money,” he said.

Henry applied for cash assistance for himself and his then 12-year-old son through Ohio Works First, which provides up to three years of cash assistance for families with children. He was approved after his doctor verified that his conditions excused him from the program’s work requirements. Once this three-year benefit time period had expired, Henry applied for a hardship extension, because his doctor still did not think he was physically able to work. However, in May of 2015, he received a notice that his application had been denied.

He called the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, and staff attorney Kristy Michel contacted the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services about his application. She negotiated with the County to have his application re-evaluated. A new assessment determined that he was indeed unable to work, reflecting his doctor’s opinion that he was only able to attend medical appointments and could not participate in a monthly work activity. “Job and Family Services was a giant,” he said. “You made a difference for us.”

With the help of LASC, Henry’s son was able to concentrate on his education, instead of working to help pay their bills, and pursue college, a dream that Henry has always had for him. “He kind of got that focus and direction where he knows he [is] about to cross that finish line. I know he understands and comprehends where he needs to be now versus me trying to keep that pressure,” he said. Henry’s son is now a senior in high school, and plans to attend Toledo University next fall.

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