10,000 OHIOANS lost food stamp benefits this month for failing to meet work requirements, but not too many were affected in Belmont County.
Lisa Fijalkowski, interim director for Belmont County Job and Family Services, says the rule regarding able-bodied adults without dependents has always been in place, but it had been waived due to high unemployment for the past six years. Now that unemployment has gone down, Ohio's waiver has been lifted.
Gov. Kasich announced last fall that even though Ohio still federally qualified for the waiver, work requirements would be reinstated beginning Oct. 1. in all but 16 counties. Kasich's plan was to limit food stamps, formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), for more than 130,000 adults.
Jefferson and Monroe were among the exempted counties, due to unemployment rates remaining at more than 10 percent.
Belmont County responded efficiently to the waiver being lifted.
"Public assistance superiors and staff took a proactive approach to the abled-bodied adults without dependents policy changes that went into effect on Oct. 1, 2013," Fijalkowski said. "All of our work program records were reviewed. Anyone who met the requirements or had an exemption stayed on assistance."
Those who did not meet requirements were notified and asked to come in for an interview. Out of 45 letters sent out, only 10 recipients showed up for appointments at the department. Those who did not meet requirements or have an exemption were assigned to a work program. Individuals who did not show up for appointments were sent another letter proposing a termination of benefits. If they called in and got an assessment in the past three months, they could also be assigned to a work program or have an exemption.
Requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents are as follows: they must have 20 hours of either paid employment, education training, volunteer work, or a jobs program assigned from Job and Family Services. There are exemptions for medical and mental health reasons or if the individual is needed at home to care for others.
Harrison County Job and Family Services' original list included about 180 people.
Deb Coffland, income maintenance supervisor, said most have been assessed and either placed into a work program or exempted.
Individuals who lose their SNAP benefits can re-enter the program by working 80 hours or more in 30 consecutive days. Paid work hours can be combined with work participation program hours to add up to 80.
"If they get a part time job and are still participating with us at their work experience position, those can combine and we can put them on for an additional period," Coffland said. "It's a pretty simplified program. Ohio had been exempt from these rules, and it's just getting back into the groove of getting everybody assessed."
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