More than 10,000 Ohio residents lost food stamp benefits this month because they failed to meet newly enforced work requirements.
About 140,000 adults who don’t have dependent children can receive assistance only if they spend at least 20 hours a week working, attending school or job training, or volunteering.
Advocates for the poor and human services officials said that number will likely increase sharply next month because county caseworkers, particularly in urban areas, have not yet completed required assessments to determine whether current recipients must comply with the new rules.
Food-stamp recipients may be exempted due to mental illness, substance abuse or other issues.
The work requirement has been in place since 1996, but Ohio has used a federal waiver for the past six years to exempt food-stamp recipients from work because the economic recession had made jobs so scarce.
But Republican Gov. John Kasich announced last year that Ohio would begin enforcing the work requirement Oct. 1 in all but 16 counties with high unemployment, even though the state still qualified for the waiver.
“I’ve placed (everyone from) an eighth-grade dropout to a recent law-school graduate,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. “Some folks have no resumes, no Internet access, no emails, and all the jobs, even minimum-wage ones, must be applied for online. We have people with felony records and older folks in the 40- to 50-year range who had worked but have been off for a long time.”
Thousands of recipients – about 75 percent in some counties — have also failed to respond to letters asking them to go to county Job and Family Services officers for assessment, and many of them will likely be removed from the rolls next month.
About 10 percent of the mailings were returned because the person no longer lived at the address on file.
About 1.8 million Ohioans receive food stamps, with an average monthly benefit of about $132 a month.
According to a recent federal analysis, about one in five of those recipients has no cash income.
[Image: Unemployed man via Shutterstock]