Counties prepare for food stamp changes

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A big change is in the works for people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food assistance to able adults ages 18 to 50 who meet certain requirements.

Recipients soon will have to work 20 unpaid hours and satisfy other requirements to receive assistance.

In Columbiana County, about 1,100 people will be affected. Columbiana County Department of Job and Family Services Director Eileen Dray-Bardon said the change is actually re-instating a requirement that was waived in 2008 because of the economy.

“If they don’t show up for the assessment , or come to the assessment and then don’t report to the work site, or don’t complete those number of hours, then they’ll  be sanctioned from receiving food assistance,” Dray-Bardon said.

Job and Family Services will work with public sector employers to find openings for those receiving assistance.

“We actually have about 50 to 60 sites that we had agreements with in the  past, and when our cash assistance number decreased, that opened up some of the slots there,” said Luann Dunham, program administrator of income maintenance programs for Columbiana Job and Family Services.

Program participants also  will meet face to face with case workers to determine their employability.

An already slim staff at Job and Family Services will be assigned these cases. Dray-Bardon said the agency will have to see 93 people a week beginning Oct. 1 to get them all done before Jan. 1.

Mahoning and Trumbull counties are also affected by the change, but 16 counties in Ohio are able to continue running the program without the change because of high unemployment numbers. In Mahoning County, 5,000 people will be affected by the change, while 2,400 will be affected in Trumbull County.

“Individuals can receive 3 out of 36 months  without any type of work activity,  but once they’ve received three months , they have to be participating to remain eligible,” Dunham said.

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