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Thousands Of Ohioans May Lose Food Stamps Under Trump Administration Rule

A grocery store that accepts SNAP benefits.
Jonathan Weiss

The White House is going forward with a rule that will make it harder for Ohioans in low-income counties to get food stamp benefits. The rule eliminates the ability for states to request waivers on work requirements for counties with high unemployment rates.

The Trump Administration rulemeans that able-bodied adults can only be eligible for SNAP if they work, go to school, get work training, or volunteer.

Nearly 700,000 people across the country would see their food stamps eliminated under the rule, which goes into effect in April. Tens of thousands of Ohioans would likely be affected.

The administration says this new rule is intended to move people away from government dependency and toward self-sufficiency.

"We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a statement. “Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work. This rule lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.”

But Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says the Trump Administration has been targeting low-income benefits from different angles and that creating work requirements will not spur personal advancement.

"A hungry worker is not going to be a productive worker," said Hamler-Fugitt. "If we want to encourage work and provide opportunities for individuals, the one thing you don't do is take away their nutritional lifeline."

A Republican-backed bill, HB200, calls for similar changes on the state level.

"This legislation aims to restore dignity to Ohioans by moving them from public assistance to work," says state Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster), who sponsored the bill. "By requiring able-bodied adults to fulfill work requirements in order to receive SNAP benefits, more individuals will find themselves on a pathway to long-term employment, ultimately eliminating their need for food assistance."

That bill has received three hearings in the House but has had no action since June.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.