Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said her organization is particularly concerned that some seniors or persons with disabilities who have a low benefit amount could lose all their monthly assistance.
“We’re really worried about [the change],” she said.
What’s called the “standard utility allowance” — the amount deducted from a person’s income when the state determines his or her eligibility for the food stamp program — will decrease by $166 for 2013, translating to about $50 less per household in food assistance. State Job and Family Services officials tried to appeal the change to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but the USDA denied the request.
USDA officials did not respond to requests from The Blade for comment.
The average food-stamp recipient receives $138 per person, per month, according to state statistics. As of August, more than 1.7 million individual Ohioans, or about 869,000 families, received the assistance. A total of $3 billion in benefits was issued in 2011 in Ohio; the program is federally funded.
In Lucas County, about 91,000 people — 46,000 households — receive the benefit. Fifty fewer dollars per household per month would amount to about $27 million annually.
“It’s a concern,” said Deb Ortiz-Flores, director of Lucas County’s Job and Family Services agency. “Fifty dollars can buy quite a bit of food.”
Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in southeastern Ohio, said the loss of funds will cause a true hardship.
“Fifty dollars would be devastating” to families, he said. “These are folks that have already fallen off the fiscal cliff.” Mr. Frech added that many of his agency’s clients are not affected by lower natural gas prices.
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