In 1996, Congress passed
a bill putting a time limit on food stamp access for those in need. The law forbade "Healthy, childless adults" from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for more than three months in a three-year period, unless they had a job or were in a training program for 20 hours or more per week. Then-Congressman, now-presidential candidate and Gov. John Kasich co-sponsored the bill.
It was the first time Congress had implemented such a time limit, and the impact was extreme: About 1 million people would lose food stamp access under this law. When lawmakers pushed back, an important exception was added to "allow states to seek time-limit waivers for areas with especially high unemployment."
As governor of Ohio, Kasich has taken advantage of those time-limit waivers himself. While hypocritical—it was his idea to limit food stamps, after all—his use of the waivers is not the problem.
The problem is how his administration distributes them. According to Mother Jones:
"Ohio civil rights groups and economic analysts say Kasich's administration is using the waivers unequally: It applies for waivers in some regions of the state but refuses them in others, in a pattern that has disproportionately protected white communities and hurt minority populations."
There's more below.
In 2013, the state unemployment rate and economy were so bad that the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services had the opportunity to receive a time-limit waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This would have been the seventh year in a row that the whole state had been eligible for and received it.
But the governor rejected the waiver for two years for most of the counties in the state. Only 16 counties' waivers were accepted, mostly rural areas where the population is sparse and white, while "[u]rban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations" did not receive a waiver.
It's not quite clear how the governor picked these 16 counties to receive waivers. But the demographics are interesting. In Ohio, 75 percent of black residents live in just eight counties—none of which got a waiver, even though they have higher unemployment rates than some of the counties that received waivers. Mother Jones reports:
By January—the three-month mark where those without waivers began losing their food stamps if they couldn't meet the work requirement—it had become clear that the policy had spawned a stark racial disparity in food aid. Across the 16 counties the state had selected for waivers, about 94 percent of food stamp recipients were white. Overall in Ohio in December 2013—immediately before the new policy's effects began to surface—food stamp recipients were 65 percent white.
By March 2014, six months into the new system, the six counties with the highest rate of terminating food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults were all counties populated mostly by minorities.
All this in a place where everyone could have utilized SNAP benefits. After all, Ohio is one of the worst food security states in the nation, ranking sixth overall
. Instead of helping solve this problem, Gov. Kasich has allowed rural white communities–his base –to receive food stamps, while discriminating against minority communities and forcing them to go hungry.