Ohio food stamp cut won't be as severe as expected

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TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Some Ohio families will see a drop in food stamp benefits next year, but the reduction won't be as a severe as state officials and food bank operators first feared.

The state said its appeal of how the federal government calculates the benefits led to the reversal.

The end result is that some Ohio families will lose $23 a month in food stamp benefits instead of $50 a month.

The cut won't apply to all 869,000 households receiving food stamps, but only to some homeowners and renters who have a "standard utility allowance" deducted when determining whether they are eligible for food stamps.

Those families will see a cut in benefits because of how the government calculates utility expenses. A mild winter last year and lower natural gas prices led to a decrease in aid.

Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services asked the government last week to use a different calculation and figure in the cost of electric heat and propane. The state argued that many families slated for a reduction don't even use natural gas to heat their homes and instead use fuel oil or propane and didn't see a cost savings.

Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told The Blade newspaper that the change will reduce the impact on struggling families.

The average food-stamp recipient receives $138 per person, per month, according to state statistics.

Several members of Congress from Ohio sent a letter last week to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which sets the food stamp calculations. They said they were concerned about the proposed cuts and the economic impact.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, had said the bigger cut would have been especially hard of working families, seniors, children, and persons with disabilities.

The cuts will still hurt low-income families, she said, but the impact will be much less.