Ohio Passes Bill Requiring Greater Food Stamp Oversight

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ROBERT F. BUKATY/AP

Ohio lawmakers passed a bill this week that would allow the state to have greater oversight of food stamp recipients.

House Bill 119, which passed the Ohio Senate on Wednesday and the Ohio House on Thursday, would allow state officials to review the eligibility of people receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program responsible for doling out food stamps, every three months instead of every year.

The legislation would also allow the state to provide the same oversight of Medicaid recipients.

One of the bill’s supporters, State Sen. Robert McColley, said state administrators would be able to use data already “available to them” to verify users’ eligibility for the program.

“They’ll simply take data that is available to them at their fingertips through various databases and otherwise and use that data to basically cross-check verification,” McColley told WYSO.

“The recipients themselves will have no idea this is going on and if there are red flags that do arise then the recipients will be provided notice and an opportunity to be heard to explain why there might have been a change of circumstances,” he added.

But some hunger advocates say the greater state oversight can lead to state administrators committing more errors.

“It is a barrier that will have a chilling effect for our poorest citizens in order to be able to access food stamps or SNAP benefits, our first line of defense against hunger in our state,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, who represents the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

The recently passed legislation will head to Gov. John Kasich’s (R-OH) desk for approval.

Food stamp enrollment among Ohio residents has gone down by 3.7 percent during the past year, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The declining enrollment in Ohio is part of a larger downward trend in food stamp usage nationwide, as 47 out of 50 states report a decrease in food stamp usage between September 2017 and September 2018, USDA data shows.

It is unclear if the downward trend in SNAP enrollment will continue at its current pace, especially after the U.S. House and Senate passed legislation without a major welfare reform provision requiring food stamp recipients to work a set amount of hours to receive benefits.

The work requirement provision had been implemented in several states during the past few years, which reported significant dips in SNAP participation after the work requirements went into effect.

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