Ohio SB 17 makes it harder to qualify for and maintain food and medical benefits. Tell the Senate what this would do to the people you serve.

Nearly 1.5 million people in Ohio – 700,000 households – currently receive SNAP benefits.  The bill would require a photo of at least one member of the household on SNAP debit cards, raising the possibility that other eligible adults in the family could be turned down at the cash register.

Ohio SB 17 prohibits simplified reporting – an option under federal law through which states allow households to report changes in their conditions at the end of a certification period – instead mandating that the family report all changes within 10 days. Research shows that this is a major factor in families losing Medicaid coverage and SNAP benefits, leaving them vulnerable to greater food insecurity and medical debt and forcing them to reapply.  It also increases the administrative burden on already-strapped county caseworkers

States are allowed under federal law to relax the limits on family assets so that a family meeting eligibility for one benefit can have the SNAP asset limit waived. This is extremely helpful during the current economic crisis with families struggling with so many time-consuming logistical challenges like teaching children at home and applying for new jobs, but the bill would prohibit the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services from “categorical eligibility” in which assets are disregarded and they are enrolled in Medicaid because they meet the income eligibility limits.

The bill would slow down Medicaid eligibility determination by adding more hurdles and eliminating authority that the state currently can give to health care providers such as hospitals or federally qualified health centers to temporarily enroll income-eligible patients under “presumptive eligibility.” This would delay enrollment and add to eligible families’ stress when they are coping with illness.

The bill would increase work or eligible educational participation requirements for people receiving Medicaid, from those below age 55 to those 65 and younger.  Many people in these age groups are caring for elderly parents or grandchildren – critical work which does not count as eligible.  The bill would also increase ODJFS’s reporting burden at a time when they are striving to meet the ongoing extraordinary needs created by the pandemic.

You can read the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Services Commission analysis of SB 17 here.  https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/download?key=15519&format=pdf

If your church partners with emergency assistance programs, this bill affects the people you are trying to help stay above water. Please consider sending your own letter about the people it would affect to the Senate Government and Oversight Committee via staffer Ryan Culross, Ryan.Culross@ohiosenate.gov,  Address your letter to Senator Kristina Roegner, Chair, Senator Rob McColley, Vice Chair, Senator Hearcel Craig, Ranking Minority Member, and Members of the Senate Government and Oversight Committee. Include your name, address, email, and phone number.  In your letter, explain your role and experience with people needing public benefits.

Ohio Council of Churches’ excellent overview of state budget

If your church –  or you personally –  are striving to increase your neighbors’ food and housing security and access to effective education, please watch this excellent overview of the Governor’s draft biennial budget by the Rev. Nick Bates, presented last week for the Ohio Council of Churches: https://www.ohcouncilchs.org/in_case_you_missed_it   This will be invaluable for your advocacy, including OCC’s Virtual Advocacy Day March 23, for which you can sign up here: https://www.ohcouncilchs.org/advocacyday2021.

Nick Bates is a lawyer and Lutheran deacon who leads Hunger Network in Ohio. His talk starts at minute six (6:00) of the recording with an overview of the state budget’s revenue sources and allocations, and how nine income tax cuts over the past 15 years have led to what’s now a $6 billion loss to state revenue. This has translated into cuts in funding for local government services, higher tuitions for public colleges, and a tax structure that burdens those with the lowest incomes. As these tax cuts have accumulated, Ohio’s food insecurity has consistently exceeded national rates and Ohio job growth has lagged the nation’s.

Nick’s talk gives the timeline for the budget process which must be concluded by June 30. He outlines the OCC’s policy priorities — food security, housing security, and education – with funding goals for investments in each.  An expert on state tax policy as well as trends in the budget, he also outlines tax policy recommendations that would generate resources for these needed investments and give working Ohio families more spending power.

Here are some steps you can take to be an advocate:

  1. Attend virtual Advocacy Day on March 23: https://www.ohcouncilchs.org/advocacyday2021
  2. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper: https://www.hungernetohio.com/letters-to-the-editor
  3. Write an Op-Ed!: https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2021/01/state-must-shoulder-more-of-the-burden-of-feeding-ohios-hungry-david-long-higgins.html
  4. Educate others (and invite us out to your group!)
  5. Contact your state representative: https://www.hungernetohio.com/contact-your-legislators

Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming,  and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team.