An important story appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Tuesday. Here's how it began (Warren County is adjacent to and northeast of Cincinnati's Hamilton County):
County: no more food stamps for rich
Warren County’s poor (population) does not include someone with $80,000 in the bank, a paid-off $311,000 home and a Mercedes, members of the Warren County Board of Commissioners said Tuesday.
And if they have to fight the state and federal government over it, they will.
Recently the commissioners learned that this person, with the before-mentioned property, qualified for $500 a month in food stamps after she lost her job.
The Enquirer never told us why the County suddenly became motivated to do what it did.
Here's why (and how typical it is that the Enquirer either doesn't know this, or refused to give credit where due).
Someone who is "a source in the business" e-mailed State of Ohio Blogger Alliance founder Matt Hurley of Weapons of Mass Discussion. Matt put up a memorable post on March 13 containing the text of that e-mail:
Subject: Food Stamp Case
One of the workers here just approved an ongoing food stamp case where the family have over $80,000 in bank, own a 2001 Toyota and 2006 Mercedes Benz, and a $311,000 home that is paid for. Monthly benefits of over $500 in FS, received over $300 in expedited.
3 household members--husband, wife and child. Wife recently lost job, husband receives SS benefits.
THERE'S SOMETHING BAD WRONG WITH THIS PROGRAM THAT ALLOWS A FAMILY THAT KIND OF RESOURCES AND STILL GET FOOD STAMPS.
This is where things have gotten to. I would think the world would want to know about this.
Well, Warren County and Southwestern Ohio certainly found out.
Since then, what Matt and his e-mailer started has had quite an impact, as illustrated in these additional Enquirer and other stories:
- March 18, Enquirer -- "Food stamps for well-off 'offensive'"
- March 18, Dayton Daily News -- "State rep wants to put stop to food stamps to rich policy"
- March 19, Enquirer -- "Legislator seeks food stamp change"
- March 19, Enquirer -- "More critics blasting food stamp policy"
- March 19, AP at MSNBC via NBC4 in Columbus -- "Food Stamp Rules Called ‘Offensive’"
- March 20 Oxford (OH) Press -- "Butler County (north of Cincinnati) also seeks to limit food stamps to truly needy"
- ABC Channel 13 in Toledo (video is at link) -- "Living the high life-- on food stamps" (though there are more incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading statements in the coverage than I can hope to address here)
Only two of these stories are from outside of Southwestern Ohio. The news of what has happened here needs to get out to the rest of the country, because what we've learned is that the Buckeye State's Democratic administration has turned the Food Stamp Program into an entitlement for anyone experiencing a temporary loss of income, regardless of how financially well-off they are. This may be taking place under the radar in many other states. It must be stopped.
Uncle Sam's USDA's web site tells us the following about the ordinary asset-based federal rules for Food Stamp eligibility:
To get SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, households must meet certain tests, including resource and income tests.
Households may have $2,000 in countable resources, such as a bank account. Households may have $3,000 if at least one person is age 60 or older, or is disabled. Certain resources are not counted, such as a home and lot and the resources of people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Let's assume for the moment that the Warren County household's income for inclusion in the benefit calculations (see Additional Background below) is really zero (But what about interest income? Unemployment benefits? The Social Security benefits? -- Ed.). With all their resources, including $80,000 in the bank and nice cars, how was this household able to receive Food Stamps?
The original Enquirer story tells us (bold is mine):
A new rule by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) says that this person qualifies for food stamps because eligibility depends on income and no longer takes into account other “resources,” such as savings accounts, stocks or belongings like cars.
The policy change appears to be legal; the Toledo TV report includes an interview of a Lucas County official who claimed that the state has the legal flexibility to do this.
But whose idea was this?
Oh, you'll just looooooove the answer:
- ODJFS was run until late last year by Helen Jones-Kelley. Yeah, THAT Helen Jones-Kelley.
- Jones-Kelley was suspended without pay, and then resigned before her suspension expired, primarily because of the state record snooping she initiated on Joe the Plumber the day after John McCain's frequent citations of the Northwest Ohioan who had confronted Barack Obama over his taxation proposals a few days earlier.
- It seems more than likely that Jones-Kelley, or one of the several other ODJFS higher-ups who were sacked as a result of the Joe the Plumber database dives, approved the change in policy allowing assets to be totally ignored.
Here's what's really infuriating: Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has been pleading dire poverty, even begging his old buddy at the White House Rahm Emanuel for billions in stimulus money. Meanwhile, one of his key state appointees opened up the Food Stamp floodgates to anyone and everyone suffering from temporary income loss, regardless of their financial means.
So what did Supposedly Totally Broke Ted know about the ODJFS policy change, and when did he know it?
Someone needs to ask Mr. Strickland when it became taxpayers' responsibility to feed Ohio breadwinners and their families who clearly have the resources to feed themselves.
Finally, grasp the impact of this -- In an update at that WoMD post, the e-mailer informed Matt that:
When [the] County runs out of State money to give people Food Stamps, we will have to supplement the Food Stamp Account from the General Fund. The same fund that pays for the people issuing the Food Stamps. When the General Fund runs out of money, [the county] will have to lay off the people issuing the Food Stamps.
In other words, the unilateral, state-initiated policy change could cause Ohio counties to go broke.
While at first glance it would appear that high-unemployment, usually strong-Democratic counties (not a coincidence) like Cuyahoga (Cleveland) and Lucas (Toledo) might get hit the worst, it may be that relatively low-unemployment, usually heavily-Republican counties (again, not a coincidence) could bust through their relatively modest food stamp funding allocations more quickly if even a relatively small number of well-off freeloading county residents jump on the gravy train.
Additional updates and background are at BizzyBlog.com.