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Senate Plan Would Probe Assets Of Ohio Food Stamp Recipients

State Sen. Matt Huffman was elected president of the Ohio Senate for the next session.
Ohio Senate
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima)

The Senate version of Ohio's next state budget would require a new asset test for food stamp recipients that would measure their net worth both by income and belongings such as cars.

Republican Senate President Matt Huffman said some people are taking advantage of the program and the goal of the asset test is to be sure benefits are reaching recipients who need them.

Advocates for low-income Ohioans are urging lawmakers to take what they call a harmful provision out of the state budget bill. An amendment added by the Senate would impose asset limits for people using federal assistance for groceries, often referred to as food stamps.

The proposed legislation would end up putting a cap on vehicle assets for people using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, at $4,650.  Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) supports the measure saying it won't impact people who need public assistance to eat. 

"Yes, we want to make sure that the recipients are not well-to-do, that they actually need them. The purpose of public assistance is not to help people build savings accounts and investment portfolios, it's to help families in need," Schaffer said. 

But advocates for low-income people said that scenario is a myth, and argue this measure creates more bureaucratic hurdles for poor Ohioans, forcing them to choose between a car that can get them to work or a vital safety net for food.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Ohio Association of Foodbanks executive director, said strict regulations on SNAP are not needed when the rate of fraud in the program is very low.

"We need to be strengthening opportunities for low-income Ohioans, not pulling the rug out from underneath of them," Hamler-Fugitt said. "The last thing we want to do is see people render themselves to abject poverty because the opportunities and the chances for people to be able to claw your way out back into the middle class and mainstream are pretty much slim to none."

As Hamler-Fugitt explains, the provision stops the state from exercising the ability to waive the federal cap on asset limits.

The Ohio House and Senate are now working on a final budget proposal to approve and send to Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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.