Child Poverty

Remove Harmful, Costly SNAP Eligibility Provisions from Ohio’s Budget

June 23, 2021 | Ohio

Remove Harmful, Costly SNAP Eligibility Provisions from Ohio’s Budget

June 23, 2021

By Katherine Ungar, JD, Policy Associate

The Senate’s version of the state’s biennial operating budget includes harmful administrative and programmatic changes to the way SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) operates in Ohio.  These provisions will not only increase food insecurity at a time of increased hunger, but will also undermine economic recovery. There are so many things a state budget can do to promote wellbeing for its residents—limiting access to food and nutrition support is not one of them.

Added at the 11th hour, without opportunity for adequate public input, the Senate added, among other things, the following two barriers to SNAP access:

  1. Requirement of an Asset test: Currently, SNAP eligibility in Ohio is determined by income. Those who earn below 130% of the Federal Poverty Line qualify for SNAP benefits each month.  The Senate version of the budget upends this process and requires that our county Jobs and Family Services Agencies conduct an asset test for each SNAP participant, considering “assets”, including earnings, your home, retirement accounts, and any value of their car above $4,650.  In other words, this change punishes hard working families from saving their money to purchase things like a car, or a home or merely saving for their retirement.
  2. Change Reporting: Ohio would become the ONLY state to implement this practice which would require families on SNAP to report any change in income of at least $500.00. This means that a family that picks up a couple of extra shifts in a week would be required to report this change in income and potentially see a change in their benefits, even if the next week they are not able to pick up that extra shift.  In short, this provision is ANTI-working families.

SNAP is the largest of 15 federal food assistance programs and provides supplemental funds to millions of Americans.  In 2019, SNAP allocated over $55 billion in benefits to around 35 million Americans.  SNAP benefits are used at grocery stores and convenience stores and were shown to positively impact the economy during the great recession. The evidence is clear–SNAP helps alleviate food insecurity.

Not only does SNAP increase support for children and families, but it also stimulates our economy.  Evidence from the Great Recession demonstrates the effect of higher SNAP benefits on lessening food insecurity among SNAP households and economists rate SNAP as among the fastest and most effective options for economic stimulus and recovery.

Proponents of these provisions cite fraud mitigation as the goal of the policy.  Yet no finding of pervasive fraud has been found here in Ohio within our SNAP program. In fact, the program has a history of integrity and includes numerous quality control measures (like requirement of detailed household information, eligibility confirmation every six months for most SNAP participants, electronic databases, utilization of several electronic databases to confirm continues eligibility) to ensure accuracy in payment distributions that go to the right recipients.

Food and nutrition assistance helps people meet their basic needs. Ohio families are struggling to keep food on the table. The SNAP program is critical infrastructure both to keep families fed, but also to stimulate the economy. Asset tests and change reporting for SNAP benefits will cause many families to be kicked off SNAP at a time when they are just beginning to get back on their feet. The Senate’s inclusion of these provisions will increase hunger, hurt working families, and ultimately, limit access to public benefits when Ohioans need them most.