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Some Ohioans’ food stamp benefits to decrease

Nov. 12, 2012 @ 02:47 PM

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Some Ohio families will lose $50 a month in food stamp benefits next year, leaving food banks bracing for higher demand.

The cut won’t apply to all 869,000 households receiving food stamps, but only to some homeowners and renters who have a “standard utility allowance” deducted when determining whether they are eligible for food stamps, The Blade reported.

Those families will see a cut in benefits because of how the government calculates utility expenses. A mild winter last year and lower natural gas prices led to a decrease in aid.

The thinking is that lower utility expenses meant families had more money for food.

Ohio’s Department of Job and Family Services tried to stop the change but the appeal was denied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program.

“This is a federal issue,” said Joel Potts, executive director of the job and family services directors’ association. “We just think it is going to be really hard on families and individuals. They will see significantly less money starting in January.”

The state appealed the change because many families that will see a reduction don’t even use natural gas to heat their homes and instead use fuel oil or propane and didn’t see a cost savings, said Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the job and family services department.

Plus, many people still rely on food assistance at a time when the nation is coming out of the recession, he said.

“They are going to increase hunger among our most vulnerable — working families, seniors, children, and persons with disabilities,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Some seniors or people with disabilities who have a low benefit amount could lose all their monthly assistance, she said.

Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in southeastern Ohio, said the reduction will cause hardship.

“Fifty dollars would be devastating,” he said. “These are folks that have already fallen off the fiscal cliff.”

The average food-stamp recipient receives $138 per person, per month, according to state statistics.

“It will put a strain on all organizations that provide emergency food. We’re going to have to find alternatives. We can’t pull food or money out of thin air,” the Rev. Steve Anthony executive director of Toledo Area Ministries, which runs a program with 13 food pantries in the Toledo area.
 

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