CINCINNATI - Ohio residents who use food stamps will see a reduction in their benefit starting January.
The $50 monthly reduction comes as a result of the way the federal government calculates utility expenses.
In the wake of last year's warm winter and lower natural gas prices those who receive the standard utility allowance have theoretically saved money and will, therefore, receive less money for food.
However, not everyone uses natural gas to heat their home or apartment says Ben Johnson with Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services and so some families will simply have their food allowance cut without the benefit of a lower utility bill.
"Some people use home heating oil, some people use propane, some people use electric and we're aware of that so those people might not see an actual decrease in their utility cost but they will see the same decrease in their benefits because of the decrease in the standard utility allowance," said Johnson.
The standard utility allowance is a sum deducted from the recipient's income as the state calculates his or her eligibility for food stamps. The amount will be reduced $166 for next year and mean $50 less in food aid.
Local food pantries like Holy Family's Food Pantry in East Price Hill expect to see an increase in demand when this goes into effect.
"I'm sure we're going to see an increase. We see an increase every year but I'm sure this will be even harder for people to feed their families," said Diana Penick who runs the pantry.
The pantry is part of the St. Vincent DePaul network and spokesman Eric Young lays out what has been an increasing demand for food.
"There are a lot of people in need this year. At our food pantry in the west end, for example, we've seen close to a 20 percent increase in the number of visitors over last year," said Young.
Allen Moore collects a disability payment and receives what he says is $16 in food stamps per month. He's not sure how he'll be affected but is generally worried about any reduction in benefits.
"For you to cut what we have is devastating and I don't feel that any of us have any type of exchange on this because its not an even exchange," said Moore.
Johnson said Ohio did appeal to the USDA to soften the blow.
"We asked the federal government to allow families to continue using last year's standard utility allowance and barring that we asked the federal government to cap the maximum decrease in the standard utility allowance but the federal government is not obligated to grant either of those requests and they chose not to," he said.
ODJFS will send out a letter this month to affected families explaining the cuts ahead.
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