Ohio hunger aid could come with ‘asset tests’ under proposal

A file photo shows shoppers at Kroger at Austin Landing. FILE
A file photo shows shoppers at Kroger at Austin Landing. FILE

Credit: Jim Witmer

Credit: Jim Witmer

SNAP beneficiaries would have new rules prove assets and income were under threshold.

Some Ohioans who get help paying for food would have to prove they have less than $2,250 in savings and assets, under an amendment added to the proposed state operations budget.

People receiving SNAP benefits could also have to file more paperwork on income requirements because they would be required to report change in income if their income fluctuates more than $500 in a month.

About 1.5 million Ohioans received help getting food from SNAP benefits in February, according to state data. In Montgomery County, as of February that was 39,856 households, including 34,777 children.

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“Fraud takes away critical resources from those who need it the most. We want to make sure this money goes to these families,” said John Fortney, spokesman for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus. “Those suggesting that any amount of fraud is acceptable is not accountable to families in need, nor to the taxpayers.”

Fortney highlighted federal SNAP benefit requirements, saying the dollar amount for assets is $2,250 and that cars are exempt from the asset test, as well as people 60 and older or those with disabilities.

But Kelsey Bergfeld, director of Advocates for Ohio’s Future, a health and human services coalition opposed to the change, said the federal rules are exceedingly complicated on whether cars are or aren’t excluded from an asset test.

She said a car doesn’t count if it helps with income like if the person is a delivery driver, but does count as an asset if a person uses it to get to their job. For cars that count, the first $4,650 in market value is excluded from the asset test and the extra market value is counted against SNAP applicants in the $2,250 asset limit. States have significant flexibility to apply less restrictive vehicle asset rules and many states have adopted this flexibility.

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Under the budget’s proposed $2,250 asset limit, any value to your car over $4,650 is counted toward the $2,250 asset limit.

“Caseworkers would have to learn this complicated policy - e.g. when a car can be excluded for being a taxi driver vs. if you are temporarily unemployed vs. if that specific car is for work for someone under 18, etc.,” Bergfeld said in an email.

The proposal is part of the state operations budget. The House and Senate have already passed their two different versions and now need to reconcile the differences in the coming weeks before sending the bill to Gov. Mike DeWine for a signature.