Volunteer Organizations Call on Kasich to Expand Food Assistance Waivers

November 6, 2015 / volunteer / Volunteer

2016 Republican presidential candidate and current governor of Ohio John Kasich is waging a war on the urban poor. Kasich is waiving food stamp time limits for one group of recipients, rural white and typically Republican, while enforcing the requirement on another group — urban typically Democratic minorities. Now, volunteer and civil rights groups in Columbus and across Ohio are calling on Kasich to stop the discrimination and provide SNAP waivers to all eligible Ohioans.

As part of the 1996 welfare reform bill passed by Congress and signed by Presidential Bill Clinton, recipients of food stamps could “time out” of eligibility. Specifically, healthy, childless adults were prohibited from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for longer than three months every three year period. Individuals enrolled in a training program or actively working more than 20 hours per week were still eligible to receive food stamp assistance. Kasich was a Congressman at the time and crafted the part of the bill that put the time restriction in place. However, in an effort to garner enough votes, and over Kasich’s objection, sponsors of the law added a waiver provision. Specifically, states could seek time-limit waivers for counties with unusually high rates of unemployment, as determined by the federal government.

Now, Kasich is taking advantage of the waiver provision that he opposed to reward his base. According to Mother Jones, “Ohio civil rights groups and economic analysts say Kasich’s administration is using the waivers unequally: It applies for waivers in some regions of the state but refuses them in others, in a pattern that has disproportionately protected white communities and hurt minority populations.

Under Kasich’s watch, the Ohio economy has struggled to a point where the federal governor allowed Kasich to apply for food stamp time limit waiver statewide for seven years in a row. However, Kasich refused to accept the statewide waiver, instead only choosing to apply it to rural, white, mostly agricultural parts of the state that happened to overwhelmingly vote for Kasich in his previous election. Urban areas with unemployment rates that are equal to or exceed the rates in these rural counties were not granted the same food stamp waivers. As a result, individuals that could not find work or were unable to participate in a training program began to lose SNAP assistance.

Individuals who lose their SNAP assistance before they are able to secure employment are often forced to take on debt just to buy groceries. Lenders such as title loans Columbus have seen an upsurge in business in regions where the waiver provision is not available.

The statistics paint a stark picture. In the counties granted waivers, 94% of food stamp recipients were white. By contrast, across Ohio, 65% of food stamp recipients were white prior to Kasich’s new policy of granting limited waivers.

The state is still reeling from the economic downturn and ranks sixth in the nation in food insecurity, according to a recent study. Only Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi have a greater rate of food insecurity than Ohio, according to a report by the Household Food Security organization. Food banks cannot keep up with demand in large part because of Kasich’s actions. “Food insecurity in Ohio has not only surpassed our fellow Midwestern states, but has skyrocketed compared to food insecurity nationally.” said Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. Kasich’s underhanded efforts are compounding the problem and causing Ohioans to go hungry.

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