Advocates for the poor say 134,000 Ohioans could lose food stamp benefits in the new year because of a requirement that they work or volunteer 20 hours a week. They say there won't be enough work opportunities for all the people who will need them to remain eligible.
In 2007, the federal government allowed states, including Ohio, to waive the work requirement for food stamps because of high unemployment rates. Ohio is still eligible for the waiver statewide, but Gov. John Kasich has designated only 16 counties, those with the highest unemployment rates, as eligible for the waiver in 2014.
Lamar Wooden, a homeless 44 year old, relies on $189 a month in food stamp benefits to survive. He got a letter Tuesday from the Franklin County office of Job & Family Service saying he's required to take a work assignment in order to keep receiving his benefits. He welcomes the idea. "Well I appreciate the opportunity plus it gives me a chance to build my character and credibility around the community."
Wooden volunteers at the Church for All People in Columbus but it's not a position designated as a work assignment by the county.
Corey Tyler was homeless a year ago. Now, Tyler says he has turned himself around from a life of crime to a life of purpose. Tyler does have a county authorized work assignment at the church. He's supporting his daughter and working for their monthly allotment of food stamps."I have to feed her, I have to clothe her, I have to make sure she gets to school and learns things and doesn't have to do what I did or doesn't have to be out in the streets so it (food stamps) does help a lot and I thank god for it every day."
Gene King, director of the Ohio Poverty Law Center says there will not be enough work opportunities for all the food stamp recipients who will need them. "The state has said if there are no work sites available, that's not the county's problem, that's not the state's problem, that's the recipients problem," King said.
Social services advocates say they still hold out hope that Governor John Kasich may change his mind. Matt Habash, director of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank says he's encouraged by comments Kasich made when he pushed to expand Medicaid eligibility.
"When he said -when you get to the pearly gates you're not going to be judged by whether you made government smaller but whether you helped people, whether you made a difference. I would submit to the governor to practice what he preaches," Habash said.
The state is allocating more than $8 million to counties to help with staffing and logistics.