One one hand, Gov. John R. Kasich never misses a chance to dwell on his compassionate conservatism, because it makes him look human and sympathetic to the less fortunate. One the other hand, policies championed by the former Lehman Brother banker and Fox TV network political talk show host actually push more needy Ohioans into the very shadows the governor uses to camouflage his long-held but misguided beliefs that divide people into those who deserve the few crumbs government is still allowed to give those who need it from those who don’t deserve them.
For even part-time students of Kasich’s long and lucrative career as a perpetual motion performance politician who only views the world through the prism of how he personally benefits, his decision to cut loose many of Ohio’s less fortunate from federal food aid is no surprise.
The 62-year old right wing conservative, who only embraces helping the needy if the needy meet his personal views of worthiness—which any Christian humanitarian would tell you is in direct conflict with the important messages of the Bible to help the poor he supposedly studied and learned every other Monday 20 years ago—loves to showcase his so-called toughness as a virtue. But far from being virtuous, Gov. John Kasich, who by all accounts is waiting for Nov. 4th to arrive so he can start his second and final four-year term as Ohio’s chief executive officer, embraces policies of denial, especially when it comes to designating who is deserving of help and who isn’t.
Such was the case when he cut loose thousands of Ohioans down on their luck from losing a job from federally funded food aid. Despite advice to accept federal funds for needy people, Gov. Kasich’s bus hasn’t slowed down, running over hungry men, women and children. On Monday, human services advocates and others today called on the Kasich administration to reconsider its decision and to push for full federal food assistance in all Ohio counties.
“Ohio should accept the federal government’s waiver of work requirements for all counties of the state,” Wendy Patton, Senior Project Director for Policy Matters Ohio, said today. “We call on the Kasich Administration to maximize its use of federal resources so that hungry Ohioans can meet their most basic need – food.”
Patton’s prepared remarks was echoed by The Ohio Association of Foodbanks, The Ohio Poverty Law Center, The Ohio Council of Churches, UHCAN Ohio and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.
“Those hurt by the rejection of the waiver for most places in Ohio include many of the same who are being served through the Governor’s Medicaid expansion,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. “Our organization interviewed 2,541 adults in Franklin County who lost food assistance in 2014 because of the rejection of the waiver and found a third of them (33.1 percent) suffer from poor physical or mental health. Lack of food compounds health problems that curtail the ability of these individuals to get and keep a job and may expand their need for health and hospital services.”
“While there has been some improvement in Ohio’s economy, there are plenty of low-wage workers and unemployed people who struggle with basic survival,” said Bill Faith, Executive Director of COHHIO. “The very least we can do is not withhold the meager food assistance they could be eligible for.”
Background on Kasich taking food off the table hearkens back to when the Kasich Administration has reduced access to food aid for unemployed and underemployed adults without dependents by refusing a federal waiver of work requirements in 71 Ohio counties, which marks the second year in which the waiver has been refused for most Ohio counties.
The primary food aid program, PMO notes, is the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The program is 100 percent federally funded and assistance under the program can only be used to buy food.
Under federal rules, able-bodied adults without children can receive food aid in only 3 months out of a 36-month period unless they have a job or participate in a work program. A state can qualify for a 12-month, statewide waiver of these requirements if the United States Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Service determines that it qualifies for extended unemployment benefits. Ohio has qualified for this waiver since 2007.
The waiver for the entire state was accepted from 2007 through 2013. John Kasich’s Administration accepted the waiver for just 16 mostly rural counties last year, but refused the waiver for the rest, including many urban and suburban counties. This year, the administration accepted the waiver for 17 counties, most of which were the same as last year.
On August 15, 2014, advocates filed a civil rights complaint about the disparate impact on minorities. Then last week, the Kasich Administration notified counties that they would pursue essentially the same strategy for the waiver for the coming year.
As reported at PB, Ohio still has nearly 260,000 jobs to recoup to bring it back to where it was before the Great Recession. Over these years, Ohio’s workforce has shrunk by 222,000 since the recovery began, meaning many hungry people are unable to find a job and no longer report themselves as looking for work. As PMO explained today, jobless Ohioans who seek food aid can sometimes get a work assignment at their local job and family service agency and qualify for ongoing food assistance. But the number of work slots has been far lower than the number who lost food aid as the waiver ended in most places.
Ohio lead all states last month [July] with the loss of 12,400 jobs. Under Gov. Kasich, Ohio remains below national averages for GDP and wage growth, which is actually going down. Those who do not get a work assignment or cannot meet the requirements of the assignment will exhaust their three months of food aid eligibility and then turn to food pantries or soup kitchens or go without food.
Those hurt by the rejection of the waiver for most Ohio counties include many of the same people who are being served through the Gov. Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid. Had there not been $2.5 at stake, there is little reason to believe that Kasich would have gone around the will of Ohio’s legislature that didn’t want to accept the federal funding.
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks interviewed 2,541 adults in Franklin County who lost food assistance in 2014 because of the rejection of the waiver and found a third of them (33.1 percent) suffer from poor physical or mental health. Lack of food compounds health problems that curtail the ability of these individuals to get and keep a job and may expand their need for health and hospital services.
John Kasich appears well on his way to jumping into the Republican sweepstakes for president and vice president in 2016 after he wins in November. Kasich will continue to burnish his reputation as compassionate, but for anyone who has paid attention to what he’s campaigned on and what he’s actually done when elected, John Kasich is only compassionate when he’s using other people’s money. Ohio’s community of truly compassionate advocates is now calling on him to accept the federal government’s waiver of work requirements for all counties of the state.
“We call on the Kasich Administration to maximize its use of federal resources so that hungry Ohioans can meet their most basic need – food,” the groups mentioned above said in a universal statement.