My recent campaign for Ohio’s 15th Congressional district was quite a learning experience. One of the big lessons I learned was that, in order to have a coherent message, I had to learn to frame everything through the lens of one idea. By framing all topics in this way, I could more easily pivot the conversation, even those with which I was not intimately familiar. That frame was and continues to be, “How does this encourage and improve life?”
Hunger, fortunately, is something I have spent a fair amount of time reading about and actively engaging. So, it seems an easy choice to me to encourage you to insist your representatives in Ohio’s General Assembly vote an emphatic no on Senate Bill 17.
Let us look at some of the statistics. I learned from a virtual event recently that childhood hunger in Ohio is up approximately 43% over last year. That rise equates to an EXTRA 211,000 children in our state who are not certain where their next meal will come from. The statistic used to be that 1 in 5 kids are food insecure. That number is now dangerously close to 1 in 4 due to COVID-19. Next time you pick up your kid from school, take a look around you. 1 in every 4 kids you see may not get another meal until free breakfast in the classroom tomorrow morning. Pray for good weather or it may be longer.
Typically, this bill is framed as reducing fraud and discouraging dependence on the system. The problem here is that government food programs are among the best run with the lowest instances of fraud across the board. I went looking for a number to make sure this was still the case, and it seems to be true. A Forbes article from 2018, which was definitely not friendly towards the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or what used to be called Food Stamps) agreed that even with a rise in fraud in the earlier part of the decade that over 99% of SNAP money nationally was used appropriately. SNAP also puts money into the local economy, as it largely gets spent at the grocery and other local stores. Other sources have the fraud rate as low as 0.2% of SNAP monies in Ohio. So far, what we have is our state legislators attacking a program with a low incidence of fraud that puts our tax dollars back into our community by supporting those in need. Let us take a closer look at how they are attacking this vital piece of our safety net.
SB 17 creates additional work requirements by extending the requirement from age 55 to 65 for Medicaid benefits. This can have serious consequences for those suffering from or caring for someone with a serious illness like cancer and other diseases that catch us most often as we age.
SNAP recipients will become ineligible if they have too many assets. That might sound good on the surface, but those limits are impossibly low. Your liquid assets, such as savings must remain below $2,250. Below $3,500 if you have an elderly or disabled member in the house. This is not enough to cover the cost of minor emergencies or car repairs. This bill will hurt families and pull more people into inescapable poverty.
Other additional reporting requirements would seem to discourage people from working extra shifts to cover expenses. Workers would be required to report fluctuations in income on a weekly basis. They are already required to report if their income rises above the threshold for their benefits.
The long and the short of this bill is that instead of supporting families by spending extra to sustain them during one of the most difficult times of the last century, they want to:
A) Remove waivers in place to streamline benefits and make them easier to obtain and manage
B) Spend about 19 million dollars to create the bureaucracy to compensate for those waivers
C) spend almost another million per year to combat this less than 1% fraud.
The one area where fraud has reared its ugly head, which is at a significant level is the Pandemic Unemployment Program which has been defrauded to the tune of an estimated $330 million. “Experts say much of that fraud is being perpetrated by sophisticated scammers, often from outside the country.” Let us find a good solution to that problem but let us not punish the innocent already pushed to the brink in the process.
This is a bill that does very little to encourage life at any level. It does not help encourage a needy mother to bring a child into the world. It does not give children a better chance at success. It does not help the poor, ill or elderly. It puts all of these people in a more precarious situation and makes them more likely to remain in poverty, require other forms of assistance over the long term, and generally lower their quality and length of life. This bill accomplishes very little for the amount of damage it will cause. I urge you to contact your state legislators and tell them to vote no!
Shane Hoffman, ASP Member and 2020 Ohio 15th District Candidate