Getting people back to work is a win-win

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ effort to help Trumbull and Mahoning food assistance recipients obtain work should have a positive impact on the Mahoning Valley.

Meanwhile, Ohio JFS’ request to exempt 16 struggling Ohio counties should help the state’s worst economies. It’s a relief to know that Trumbull and Mahoning counties are not on that list.

Federal law requires able-bodied adults without dependents to work or attend job training for at least 20 hours per week in order to receive full Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Those who don’t meet the requirement may receive the benefits for only three months in any three-year period.

The 20-hour requirement was waived in Ohio during The Great Recession. Ohio JFS has reinstated the requirement in 72 counties.

The return impacts 134,000 Ohioans out of the more than 1.8 million who receive food assistance. In Trumbull County, this impacts 2,000 residents. In Mahoning County, this impacts 4,000 residents.

The average SNAP benefit in Ohio is $132 per month. The maximum benefit is $200 per month. The benefits can be spent on eligible food items. Alcohol, tobacco and restaurant food are not eligible. About 40 percent of the recipients are children.

Beginning today, county departments of JFS will have three months to ensure that able-bodied adults without dependents are meeting the requirement. Individuals not meeting the requirement after three months risk losing their SNAP benefits.

The program, which began in the 1990s, provides more than a monetary benefit for its recipients. Getting people back to work, or the training they need to return to work later, also boosts the local and state economies.