Ensure that safety-net services are as responsive as possible to the needs of Ohio families – something that is essential in the midst of the current public health and economic crises. This would include supporting policies that prioritize a swift economic recovery through efficient and effective access to relief and benefit programs. Counties need the capacity and resources to be able to process applications for programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to ensure families are able to meet their most immediate needs. Improving safety-net services also requires timely and accessible data to identify gaps in services. Community Solutions supports budget policies that enhance data transparency
Starting on page 1610 of HB 110, the bill that is the governor’s proposed budget, is a series of language sections regarding hospital licensure. While much of the language essentially codifies the current expectations of the hospital network in Ohio, there is language that would provide the Ohio Department of Health the ability to define hospitals’ data-reporting expectations. For years, Community Solutions has argued for the need for better data transparency in health care, including maternal mortality and morbidity data and prices for common procedures. Certainly, if there’s one policy axiom all General Assembly members can agree on regarding COVID-19, the need for accurate, reliable data is paramount for policymaking. For this reason, this provision and the rulemaking within it make sense. If we want to enact policy to create the most efficient and effective delivery system we can, we need actionable intelligence to do it.
Throughout the course of the history of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Community Solutions has reported on how program dollars are being spent and ultimately, how many people are receiving benefits that they are eligible for. Federal TANF dollars come in the form of a block grant, allowing the state considerable flexibility with the way they are spent, within broad parameters. While this can allow, and has allowed, for innovative programming to be funded, it also means that the program can be pulled in too many different directions when TANF dollars are used in programs that broadly fit within allowable spending categories. We join with our partners at Advocates for Ohio’s Future to encourage the creation of a long-term plan for the TANF program to ensure it’s reaching Ohioans most in need. Namely this plan should “support the immediate, emergency needs of low-income children and families by investing in the core components of the TANF program including emergency assistance, work supports (known as Prevention, Retention and Contingency or PRC), food, housing, income-support and child care and ensure unspent TANF dollars are reinvested into sustainable core programs to increase the security of low-income families and expand job training and work opportunities.”
Considering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is completely federally funded, there is little mention of the program in the executive proposal of the budget bill. However, we know that along with TANF, states have a considerable amount of oversight over the logistics and implementation of the program which has historically helped to stabilize the economy during economic downturns, including the current one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are happy to see the executive budget allocates additional resources to foodbanks, we encourage the legislature to advocate for policies that address the root causes of hunger and poverty as part of Ohio’s economic recovery plan should be assuring Ohioans are not facing food insecurity as they try and reclaim housing, employment and other essentials lost to the pandemic. Further, there are quick administrative policy changes that should be considered during the budget process to ease the burden on both county caseworkers and beneficiaries alike. These include:
- Pursuing the Elderly and Disabled Simplified Application Project waiver which would protect elderly and disabled SNAP recipients with fixed incomes from facing churn and reduce county workloads
- Statewide school meal application
- Getting more assistance to working families by raising the gross income limit for SNAP from 130 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) to 200 percent FPL