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Ohioans With Vehicles Worth More than $4,650 Won't Be Eligible for SNAP

A sign advertising SNAP acceptance
Jonathan Weiss
An amendment added to the Senate's version of the state's proposed two-year budget would only allow people who receive SNAP benefits to own a vehicle with a maximum value of $4,650. Advocates for low-income residents are asking state lawmakers to remove the amendment.

Advocates for low-income Ohioans are urging lawmakers to take what they call a harmful provision out of the state budget bill. An amendment added by the Senate would impose asset limits for people using federal assistance for groceries, often referred to as food stamps.

The proposed legislation would cap vehicle assets for people using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, at $4,650.

Republican Sen. Tim Schaffer supports the measure saying it won't impact people who need public assistance to eat.

"Yes, we want to make sure that the recipients are not well-to-do, that they actually need them. The purpose of public assistance is not to help people build savings accounts and investment portfolios, it's to help families in need," Schaffer said.

But advocates for low-income people say that scenario is a myth and argue this measure creates more bureaucratic hurdles for poor Ohioans, forcing them to choose between a car that can get them to work or a vital safety net for food.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Ohio Association of Foodbanks executive director, says the arguments for strict regulations on SNAP use false scenarios and that the rate of fraud in the program is very low.

"We need to be strengthening opportunities for low-income Ohioans, not pulling the rug out from underneath of them, " she said. "The last thing we want to do is see people render themselves to abject poverty because the opportunities and the chances for people to be able to claw your way out back into the middle class and mainstream are pretty much slim to none."

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.