COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Thousands of poor Ohio residents have lost food stamp benefits for not fulfilling work requirements, and the number is expected to rise in the coming months.
More than 10,000 people lost the benefits this month as Ohio began enforcing work requirements that had been waived in recent years as the troubled economy made it tougher to find jobs.
The state said about 140,000 adults who don't have dependent children now can get the assistance only if they spend at least 20 hours working, attending class or job training, or volunteering each week. Statewide, about 1.8 million people get food stamps.
Thousands more food stamp recipients are expected to lose the benefits soon because they haven't gone through an assessment of whether the work rules apply to them or they are exempt. For some, caseworkers with large caseloads haven't finished the assessments. Other recipients haven't shown up for assessments as requested in notification letters.
"The overwhelming majority (of food stamp recipients) - 75 percent in some counties - didn't respond to the request for an assessment," said Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors' Association. "Of those who are showing up, about half are being exempted."
Another challenge in the process is fitting thousands more people into the state's workforce-development system.
"We need to establish tens of thousands of work opportunities for folks with multiple barriers to meeting the new requirements," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. Those barriers include a lack of Internet and email access, criminal records and extended unemployment.
Gov. John Kasich's administration decided last year that it would reinstate the work rules in most Ohio counties because the economy had improved.