Of the many initiatives Gov. John Kasich has launched since he took office in January 2011, the one that will get little argument from his critics has to do with some recipients of food stamps.
Kasich wants able-bodied adults without children to spend at least 20 hours a week working, training for a job, volunteering or performing a similar type of activity unless they live in one of 16 high-unemployment counties.
This initiative will undoubtedly receive overwhelming public support because there is a widely held belief that many people on food stamps are shiftless and undeserving of the government assistance program.
But the public’s perception could not be further from the truth. Here’s what a New York Times’ editorial said about the effort by Republicans in Congress to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program in the next decade:
“The Republicans play up a few abusers of the program to mask the central fact of their plan: the tens of millions of Americans who rely on food stamps are children, the disabled, the elderly and low-wage families.”
Fortunately, those aren’t the recipients Gov. Kasich is targeting.
Loss of benefits
The administration has identified 134,000 adults in 72 counties who must meet the requirements for receiving food stamps. The program begins next month, but those who fail to do what is required of them would not lose benefits until Jan. 1.
More than 1.8 million Ohioans receive food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
In Mahoning County, 4,711 are considered able-bodied out of a total of 46,414 recipients; in Trumbull, 2,054 out of 33,732; in Columbiana County, 1,102 out of 17,723.
“It’s important that we provide more than just a monetary benefit, that we provide job training, an additional level of support that helps put [food stamp recipients] on a path toward a career and out of poverty,” Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, told the Columbus Dispatch.
Kasich has long believed that able-bodied individuals on government assistance should not free load. As chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee in the mid-1990s, he pushed for work requirements.
While the federal government does have a work requirement for some recipients, it has provided exemptions through waivers. Ohio has taken advantage of the waivers for years, but now the governor has decided that the state’s economy is improving and, therefore, the 134,000 Ohioans will have to earn their keep.
These individuals are between 18 and 50 years old, without children under 18, and deemed to be physically and mentally able to participate.
While we applaud the governor for attempting to change the culture of government assistance, the state must recognize that not all recipients have the ability to get to work, training programs or volunteer sites. That means transportation will have to provided.
In addition, the state will have to be up to the task of responding to the needs of the recipients so they can satisfy the work requirements.
It falls to the state and local agencies to work with the recipients so they have “every opportunity to meet the requirements,” Johnson says. Our sentiments, exactly.