Updated Tue, Dec 3, 2013 11:45 am
Come Jan. 1, less than a month away, 134,000 Ohioans, who now receive federal food assistance, will need to meet additional federal work requirements to continue. However, Governor John Kasich has asked for an exemption for 16 Ohio counties with high unemployment rates.
The federal law, taking effect in Ohio on Jan. 1, says that able-bodied adults between 18 and 50 who are physically and mentally fit for work and who are neither pregnant nor have children under 18 years old may only receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for three months in a three-year period, unless they work or attend job training for at least 20 hours per week, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Originally, Ohio had a statewide waiver of this requirement to allow the state’s economic situation to improve. Gov. Kasich has let that lapse for all but 16 counties of Adams, Brown, Clinton, Coshocton, Highland, Huron, Jefferson, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Ottawa, Perry, Pike and Scioto.
On October 1, county departments of job and family services, in 72 of 88 counties, were given three months “to ensure that able-bodied adults without dependents are attending a qualifying work or training program for at least 20 hours each week. Individuals who are not meeting the 20-hour-a-week requirement after the three months risk losing their SNAP benefits,” the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said in a news release at the end of September.
This special exemption treatment, given to the 16 counties that are still fighting high unemployment rates, is not pleasing to everyone.
Last week Democratic State Senator Charleta Tavares of Columbus complained to WKSU reporter Andy Chow that this exemption is “not fair.”
“To say that 16 counties’ residents have the opportunity to continue to receive SNAP benefits and 72 counties – your largest counties’ residents cannot – how can we say we are being fair and just and right and equitable for all of Ohio’s citizens,” Sen. Tavares told Chow.
Despite the protests, however, the exemptions for the 16 struggling counties are expected to remain in place – at least for the near future.
SNAP is described as a federally funded food program that services 1.8 million Ohioans of which 40 percent are children. It is estimated that 134,000 Ohioans will be mandated to either get work or have the 20 hours of weekly job training. The average benefit is $132 per month and the money may only be spent on eligible food items and not alcohol, tobacco, restaurant food or other prohibited items.