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Stagnant Job Growth Prompts Lawmakers, Advocates to Push Kasich for SNAP Waiver

Growing unemployment, increased food insecurity warrant closer look at impoverished Ohioans
November 26, 2013
Democratic Newsroom

Today, Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D – Columbus) and Representative Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) called on Governor Kasich to restore access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for 134,000 low-income Ohioans. The call to action comes as Ohioans prepare to celebrate the start of the holiday season with Thanksgiving on November 28.

"During this holiday season we should do all we can to make sure every resident of Ohio has the food they need," said Sen. Tavares.  "That's why at this time of rising unemployment we are calling on Governor Kasich to request a statewide waiver like our neighboring states have done."

Ohio has participated in the statewide waiver program because of high employment rates since 2007. Current SNAP rules require childless adults who are not disabled to work or participate in a qualifying job-training program for a minimum of 20 hours per week. However, the federal government will waive the requirement in light of Ohio’s struggling economy. There would be no additional cost to the state of Ohio to again seek the waiver. Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan have already requested and been granted waivers to extend SNAP benefits.

Gov. Kasich recently extended the SNAP federal work waiver to only 16 counties, disproportionately affecting Ohio’s urban areas and other rural counties around the state. Lawmakers cited Ohio’s troubling trend of growing joblessness, a stagnant economy and lack of Work Experience Program (WEP) opportunities as reasoning to equitably extend the SNAP federal waiver to all 88 Ohio counties. Currently, there are only 9,000 available slots in the WEP program.

“The regretful irony of this situation is that Governor Kasich is championing his work on Medicaid expansion for the poor, but, at the same time, he will take food off the table of some of these very same people,” said Rep. Ramos. “Instead of working to fix fundamental problems with our state’s economy, Governor Kasich’s administration has decided to play politics with people’s food when there just aren’t enough jobs to go around.”

Due to the refusal to seek the waiver, the additional burden to feed Ohio families has fallen on Ohio’s food banks—whose resources are already limited. The Ohio Association of Food Banks Executive Director, Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, who has reached out to Governor Kasich requesting a restoration of the SNAP benefits, joined the legislators.

"Unfortunately, November has turned into a nightmare for our agencies and the individuals and families that we serve because funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have expired," said Hamler-Fugitt.  "The cold hard reality of hunger is about to get a whole lot worse beginning in January for 134,000 Ohioans because of these additional cuts to the SNAP program."

Sen. Tavares and Sen. Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard) and Rep. Ramos will soon introduce legislation that would require the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services to extend the federal waiver to all 88 Ohio counties should the administration choose to stand firm on their decision.