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Changes to Food Stamp Program to Hit Ohioans

WYSO/Lewis Wallace

Legislators have been hashing out the future of food stamps in Washington this week. But here in Ohio, changes to food assistance, also called SNAP, are coming down the pike regardless. Work requirements will go into effect Oct. 1 for 134,000 Ohioans who depend on food stamps.

That’s because a temporary work requirement waiver has been in place for all Ohio counties since 2009; the current food assistance law allows states to pass waivers in times of high unemployment. The waiver expires at the end of the month for all but 16 Ohio counties, which means all those categorized as “able-bodied adults without dependents” will have to work or participate in job training at least 20 hours a week, or risk losing benefits after three months.

Emily McCord talks food assistance with Lewis Wallace on PoliticsOhio.

Although unemployment has been on its way back down, the SNAP program hasn’t yet turned toward recovery. From 2003 to 2012, the number of people on food assistance in Ohio more than doubled, to around 1.8 million. About 40 percent of those are children, and a majority of the remaining recipients are either elderly people or working parents.

Across the U.S., one in seven people currently receives some SNAP benefits, and the program’s cost has ballooned to about $80 billion per year.

The so-called “able-bodied adults without dependents” are in a minority among food assistance recipients, so the reinstated work requirements will only reach a fraction of SNAP recipients.

But everyone on SNAP will see automatic cuts to their assistance numbers as provisions of the federal stimulus expire in November. A household of three on SNAP will see a cut of $29 each month, or around $10 less  per person; that change is permanent and across the board.