Let me start by saying that I have a lot of friends who are retailers in Ohio – and I admire them and can only imagine them shaking their heads in disbelief when they heard about what happened in the Ohio Senate.
The Ohio Senate added to its budget proposal a provision requiring the state to cut off food stamp assistance for poor Ohioans if their households save up $2,250 or more. They also added to their proposal the requirement that those people who are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to report every change in income — things like extra shifts at work or picking up odd jobs — worth $500 or more within 30 days. They are asking that the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services would be required to conduct an asset test for every SNAP recipient, according to analysis from the Legislative Budget Office as reported by the Ohio Capital Journal. This analysis includes probing bank accounts and cross-checks against various property databases.
Let me be clear, SNAP benefits should only be given to those who truly needs them – but cutting off food assistance if a household saves $2,251 is unjust. Aren’t we supposed to be incentivizing and helping people, especially those who are in this situation, to get better jobs and earn more money for their families to be clothed, housed and fed? Currently, SNAP eligibility in Ohio is determined by income — those who earn below 130% of the federal poverty line can receive benefits (about $214 per month on average). Federal law essentially defines “assets,” as people’s net worth minus their home, retirement accounts, burial plots for household members, and any value of their car beyond $4,650.
The net worth includes all savings accounts, “regardless of whether there is a penalty for early withdrawal.” Kelsey Bergfeld and others with Advocates for Ohio’s Future said asset tests can be counterproductive Jami Turley, a SNAP recipient from a rural pocket of Wayne County, appeared with AOF. She said she and her adult son are unemployed and looking for work. This necessarily requires a car in Sterling, Ohio, a town with a population around 400. If she were subject to an asset test, she said the value of her Jeep would put her about $300 over the line, cutting off her food assistance. About 248,000 retailers participate in SNAP nationwide. These stores, ranging from big-box superstores and supermarkets to specialty stores, farmers markets, and convenience stores, redeemed a total of about $55.6 billion in benefits in fiscal year 2019.