July 24, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
60°F

Hundreds of county’s food stamp recipients could be cut off

MEDINA — About 720 Medina County food stamp recipients will have to get part-time work or job training if they want to continue getting government assistance.

Those affected are any able-bodied people — married and unmarried — who have no minor dependants, said Cheryl Mason, eligibility services administrator for Medina County Job and Family Services. Requirements for other recipients remain unchanged.

John Kasich

The statewide policy change, announced last week by Republican Gov. John Kasich, will require those affected to work 20 hours weekly and will start next month. Anyone failing to find paid or volunteer work or enroll in job training would lose their benefits after Jan. 1.

The change will affect more than 130,000 people statewide — about 7.2 percent of the 1.8 million on food stamps in Ohio.

But in Medina County, the change will affect a smaller share — 6.3 percent of the 11,490 people in 5,563 households who received food stamps last month.

That’s not surprising, Mason said.

“If you look at the big counties — Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton — they have a lot more people who are receiving benefits without dependants,” she said.

To qualify for food assistance, a single-person household must make less than $14,532 per year. The threshold is $19,680 for two-person households.

Mason said Medina County is better off than most, as evidenced by a lower unemployment rate than statewide. The county saw 6.1 percent unemployment in July, compared with the state’s 7.3 percent.

She said county Job and Family Services officials intend to inform those affected starting next week.

“We’re going to bring them in and explain to them the new requirements,” she said, “and at that time, they’ll have the option of whether to cooperate or close their food stamp assistance.”

Mason said the requirements aren’t new: They were in effect before the economic crisis in 2007.

“The work requirement was waived because there were just no jobs out there,” she said. “Now that the unemployment rate has dropped, they’re bringing it back.”

If they cannot find employment and choose to retain their food assistance, Mason said they’ll be assigned as unpaid workers to Medina Assembly and Packaging in Wadsworth. The facility is operated by Windfall Industries, a nonprofit established primarily to provide training and employment for county residents with disabilities.

She said they can leave the assembly firm once they find paid employment, even if it’s minimum wage.

It’s important for them to work, Mason said, because it can give them much-needed experience. She said it gets them used to waking up for work, arriving on time and following instructions.

“They can use this experience on a resume,” she said. “They can say they have some factory experience at Medina Assembly and Packaging.”

Statewide, the change affects all but 16 of Ohio’s 88 counties — Adams, Brown, Clinton, Coshocton, Highland, Huron, Jefferson, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Ottawa, Perry, Pike and Scioto.

High unemployment rates made those counties exempt.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.