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Governor Asked to Reverse Course on Food-Assistance Work Requirement

IMAGE: Several groups are asking Ohio's governor to reverse a decision to not extend a work requirement waiver for SNAP benefits to all counties. Graphic courtesy of USDA.
IMAGE: Several groups are asking Ohio's governor to reverse a decision to not extend a work requirement waiver for SNAP benefits to all counties. Graphic courtesy of USDA.
August 28, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Gov. John Kasich is being asked to reverse course on a decision that has cost thousands of Ohioans federally-funded food aid. Because of the recession, from 2007 to 2013, Ohio requested a statewide federal waiver of work requirements for childless adults without a job in need of food assistance. Last year, the state requested the waiver for just 16 counties.

Michael Smalz, senior staff attorney with the Ohio Poverty Law Center, says this year the state requested the waiver for 17 counties.

"They're rural, they're very small populations, nearly all white and yet you have metro counties, and communities in those counties, which are even poorer, have higher unemployment, where the waiver does not apply," Smalz says.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is completely federally funded. Assistance under the program can only be used to buy food. It was estimated, last year's change impacted 134,000 Ohioans. Groups requesting the state extend the waiver to all counties include the Ohio Poverty Law Center, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, and the Ohio Council of Churches.

Smalz says Ohio has seen some improvement in its economy, but there are still areas of unemployment, the poverty level remains higher than before the economic downturn and many people struggle to meet basic needs.

"Despite those difficult economic conditions, we moved backward by denying assistance to impoverished people in Ohio, singling them out simply because they don't have children," Smalz says. "There are no such restrictions, of course, on other households."

Not requesting the waiver for the entire state, according to Smalz, not only hurts the poor, but also the state as a whole by denying federal dollars that would be coming into the economy.

Meanwhile, several organizations filed a civil-rights complaint regarding last year's acceptance of only a partial waiver, claiming a disparate impact on minorities who live in urban counties not exempt from the work requirement.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH