COLUMBUS, Ohio - There was a sigh of relief from anti-poverty groups in Ohio when the U.S. Congress protected the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2018 Farm Bill.
However, they're holding their breath once again.
After more than a year of hard-fought negotiations and debate, the bill is headed to President Donald Trump's desk with bipartisan support. It includes continued support for SNAP, which helps 1.5 million Ohioans access quality, nutritious foods.
But the Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says now some state lawmakers are considering some of the provisions for the program that Congress rejected and she calls "draconian."
"And unfortunately, we've seen one of these provisions, House Bill 119, would basically create additional administrative barriers and require all SNAP recipients to do quarterly income verification in order to maintain their benefits," she points out.
The measure would also require information on citizenship status, disability and medical bills.
Supporters contend it will preserve SNAP assistance for those who truly need it, but opponents counter it will force people in need out of the program, and hurt the economy.
The Ohio House passed HB 119 in November, and the Senate approved the bill last week.
More than 67 percent of Ohio SNAP beneficiaries are in families with children, and more than 45 percent are in working families.
Hamler-Fugitt says SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger.
"We must protect this critical lifeline that benefits low-income children, seniors, persons with disability, veterans and low-income working Ohioans, who play by the rules but don't earn enough to put food on their table and a roof over their head," she stresses.
Hamler-Fugitt says she hopes Gov. John Kasich will veto HB 119 when it comes to his desk.
"In this holiday season let's all think about those who are the least among us and struggle and in Ohio more than one-in-eight of our hungry friends and neighbors depend on the SNAP program," she states. "More than one-in-three struggle every day to meet their basic needs. "
The average monthly SNAP benefit for each household member in Ohio is $123. And it's estimated that $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity.