Friday, September 20, 2013 at 5:30 PM
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. From Ohio Public Radio member station WYSO, Lewis Wallace reports.
It’s early on a Tuesday, and a young couple wanders out of the Clark County job center in Springfield.
Megan Creech was called in for an appointment about SNAP work requirements, but she doesn’t have a car, so Brian Mason was her ride.
To keep getting food stamps she’ll have to find 20 hours a week of work, or participate in a job training program.
“I’m actually hoping to get out of it, because I actually take care of my grandmother who has cancer, and in turn for taking care of her, she provides me housing,” Creech said.
If she doesn’t start work or training she could lose food assistance after three months, and she doesn’t really know what she’ll do.
“If I have to withdraw from food stamps, I’m going to try doing online courses or something,” she said.
This work requirement isn’t new—it’s just been on hold in Ohio since the Recession. And lots of folks are exempt from work requirements anyhow—like people with young children, and people with disabilities. So the change on Oct. 1 will affect able-bodied, childless adults.
And Ben Johnson with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says 16 of the hardest-hit counties will still have the requirement waived.
“We wanted to be cognizant of parts of the state where the economy has not recovered as quickly, but we also want to acknowledge that in parts of the state the economy is recovering,” Johnson said.
In those other 72 counties, tens of thousands risk losing assistance—although Johnson says county job programs should fill in the gaps.
“So long as people enroll in and complete the necessary job training and work assistance, there’s no reason that anyone has to lose their food assistance benefit,” he said.
Down at Greene County Job and Family Services, director Beth Rubin says the county can handle the immediate job training needs. She’s more concerned about the bigger picture, what she calls a “new normal” since the Recession.
“We have leveled off in terms of not seeing a huge influx of new individuals coming through the doors as they once were, but we’re continuing to serve high numbers of people, and our resources have remained flat for quite some time,” Rubin said.
What Rubin is seeing reflects a larger trend: jobs are gradually coming back, but wages are down, and the number of people on SNAP has more than doubled in 10 years.
Most recipients are either children, elderly people, or working parents.
Meanwhile, Congress is debating the future of the whole food assistance law. The latest House bill would save $40 billion—by cutting around 4 million people from the rolls.
Brian Mason and Megan Creech aren’t that hopeful about what’s next.
“I’d be surprised if they actually exempt her because of her grandma,” Mason said.
“That’s what I’m worried about,” Creech said. “That they won’t. I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wound up in a homeless shelter over it.”
Before they head back to Brian’s car to drive home, Megan adds that Springfield just isn’t a very big place. If she does have to leave her grandma’s, she’s not sure where she would go—or how she would get there.
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