Nearly 350 to 400 residents of Athens County are set to lose Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits once federal work requirements become stricter under new rules from the Trump administration.
The revised eligibility standards, which go into effect April 1, affect the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Employment and Training Program’s hourly work requirements. Previously, 42 of Ohio’s 88 counties were exempt from those hourly work requirements, but the new rules winnowed it down to 13, leaving out Athens County.
Jean Demosky, executive director of the Athens County Job and Family Services, or ACDJFS, said the estimated 350 to 400 able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) will now have to participate in a work program for 20 hours a week, or 80 hours a month.
ABAWDs that do not participate are prohibited from receiving more than three months of benefits in a three-year period. That number makes up about 4% of SNAP recipients in Athens County out of what Demosky estimates to be just over 9,500 people.
“While assisting individuals to move toward self-sufficiency and into employment will always be an important part of our mission, we are never in favor of adding barriers to receiving benefits,” Demosky said in an email.
Athens County is one of the counties that ended up losing the ability to receive a waiver for work requirements because of an adjustment to a U.S. Department of Agriculture policy based on a county’s unemployment rate, according to a media release from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Under current rules, counties with higher unemployment rates, like Athens, were able to apply for a waiver. Under the new rules, a county’s unemployment rate for the last 24 months must exceed 6% according to an article by the Columbus Dispatch. That ended up leaving only 13 counties eligible.
The only thing that changes for ACDJFS is they will now be required to track three of 36 months of SNAP eligibility under the Employment and Training program. That means after a job program participant fails to finish their three countable consecutive months of receiving SNAP benefits in a 36 month time period, they will lose their SNAP eligibility.
Demosky said there are ways to regain eligibility. To do this, they would have to complete one of the following within a 30 day period:
- 80 hours of work or a work program
- 80 hours of SNAP Employment and Training Program (E&T) activity.
- 80 hours of a combination of SNAP Employment and Training Program (E&T) activities, work, or work program.
- Complete Work Experience Program (WEP) compliance hours (based upon FLSA – SNAP allotment divided by minimum wage)
Chris Chmiel, Athens County commissioner, said the changes will probably put a burden on those affected but may lead to people changing the course of their lives and becoming more productive citizens.
“I’m hopeful that we can use it in a positive way because when something happens you have to deal with it,” Chmiel said. “Federal money coming into the county is important but I’m hoping we don’t have to stay the poorest county in the state forever.”