October 09, 2015
October 09, 2015
Governor Kasich’s decision to accept federal food aid for some struggling parts of Ohio but not others is drawing strong opposition from elected officials in the wake of a Policy Matters report that called attention to this inequity.
U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley and others are urging Governor Kasich to accept expanded federal food aid for urban areas where thousands still struggle to find work.
The Policy Matters report found that Ohio accepted what is known as a federal waiver of time limits on food assistance for only 18 mostly rural counties for 2016. Urban areas with large minority populations were left out, as were many other counties.
Expanding the waiver request would help more hungry people in places where the local economy lags. There is no reason for the assistance to go to rural areas and not cities.
Because of Ohio’s weak recovery from the recession, times remain hard in many communities throughout the state -- urban and rural. In these places, even people who are working often are paid too little or not employed for enough hours to afford such basics as rent and food.
Ohio ranks sixth in the nation in the percentage of households in which access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. Use of Ohio’s food pantries rose by 40 percent between 2010 and 2014. The presence of hunger in so many households is a bleak measure of our inadequate policies to ensure basic human needs.
Federal rules limit food aid to adults without custody of kids to just three out of 36 months, unless recipients work about 20 hours a week. When the economy is weak and many cannot find this many hours, federal rules allow states to waive the time limits.
Even though all of Ohio’s 88 counties were eligible, the Kasich administration requested a waiver for only 16 in 2014 and 17 in 2015. All are rural counties. Headed into 2016, up to 34 counties and 12 cities continue to qualify, but the state has requested the waiver for just 18 counties.
In response, Cleveland’s City Council passed a resolution calling on Governor Kasich to include as many cities and counties as possible. Council President Kelley, U.S. Reps. Fudge and Tim Ryan, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and state Reps. Janine Boyd and Michele Lepore-Hagan also wrote to the governor. State Rep. Dan Ramos is drafting legislation that would require the governor to seek the waiver if local officials request it when the economy lags and people are hungry.
The state policy is drawing national media attention as Governor Kasich campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination. Mother Jones questioned whether the Kasich administration “is turning a blind eye to the racial disparity intentionally.” A Toledo Blade editorial called on the governor to allow all of Ohio “to get the federal help it’s entitled to.” The Washington Post, Daily Kos, Columbus Dispatch and Lima News also carried news coverage.
The members of Congress have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to rule on a civil rights complaint brought last year by Legal Aid of Columbus, which alleges Governor Kasich’s policy discriminates against minority populations.
In her letter, Congresswoman Fudge told Governor Kasich her district has the highest poverty rate in Ohio. “I’ve heard the stories from my constituents who struggle each month to pay for basic necessities such as medicine and food. Without question, Ohio should take advantage of every opportunity to mitigate these challenges and feed those in need.”
-- Amelia Hayes and Wendy Patton
Amelia is outreach coordinator and Wendy is senior project director of Policy Matters.
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