COLUMBUS — Advocates for the poor have filed a civil rights complaint against Ohio officials for failing to renew the state’s food stamp waiver for all 88 Ohio counties, which resulted in thousands of Ohioans losing the federal benefits.
In a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the advocacy groups argued the decision disproportionately hurt minority Ohioans. The complaint was filed jointly by The Legal Aid Society of Columbus, the Ohio Poverty Law Program, the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality.
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, requires recipients of food stamps to either work 20 hours a week or attend work training. But since 2007, Ohio officials have applied for a statewide waiver from the work requirement.
In September, 2013, Ohio officials decided to apply for a waiver for the 16 most economically depressed of Ohio’s 88 counties. The exempt counties are located mostly in Appalachian Ohio and don’t include Ohio’s big, urban counties.
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services officials expected the change to affect approximately 134,000 Ohioans out of the more than 1.8 million who receive food assistance.
The complaint requests the USDA to extend the work requirement waiver to all Ohio counties.
In June, 2014, 62.54 percent of participants in Ohio’s food stamp program were white, while 37.56 percent were minorities, according to the complaint. But in the counties granted a work requirement waiver last year, white Ohioans accounted for 94.18 percent of all recipients.
The groups argue many urban counties now have an unemployment rate higher than the 16 counties initially chosen for a waiver.