Cuyahoga County Suspends Work Requirement Assessments For SNAP Recipients

A sign that reads "We accept EBT Food Stamp Benefits" on a door.
Ohio is also seeking flexibility in its administration of SNAP and TANF benefits during the coronavirus crisis. [Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock]

Cuyahoga County residents who count on food stamps will get some leeway in work requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. The county is suspending in-person and onsite assessments indefinitely.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients will not lose benefits for failing to be onsite for workplace visits and in-person assessments, said Jobs and Family Services Administrator Kevin Gowan. COVID-19 restrictions are expected to have a negative effect on recipients’ ability to meet the requirements, he said.

“Individuals who are fulfilling this, their obligation through a work requirement, are normally in low-wage jobs,” Gowan said. “That’s how they’re fulfilling their work requirement. And those are the jobs that are actually kind of going away during this crisis.”

The county is also suspending assessment and onsite visits for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Assessments for both SNAP and TANF recipients rely on in-person visits, Gowan said.

“Most of our work can be done over the phone nowadays, except for this particular piece,” he said.

The county is looking to reduce in-person meetings to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted included a request to loosen restrictions on SNAP benefits in a letter sent to President Trump last week seeking aid for the duration of the pandemic.

A new federal rule for SNAP work requirements is slated to go into effect April 1. The rule makes it harder for counties to waive the work requirements due to local unemployment levels and poor economic conditions, and will end the waivers in 29 Ohio counties that currently use them.

The governor’s office is asking the Trump Administration for flexibility with that new rule.

“[This] requirement is both impractical and likely impossible to comply with during a public health crisis,” the letter from Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Husted said.

DeWine is also requesting the requirement for new SNAP applications to be submitted either in person or over the phone be amended to include mail and online options during the virus crisis and asking for flexibility in work requirements for families receiving TANF.

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