It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in need for families across the country who are facing hardship during these unprecedented times. Beginning April 23, the U.S. Census Bureau has published weekly data from a 20-minute online Household Pulse Survey studying how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting households across the country. As many sectors struggle to re-open because of the virus’s uncertainty, people remain out of work and in many cases are still grappling to gain access to unemployment benefits. From a social and economic perspective, the results of the survey can inform federal and state response to recovery planning.
Ohio has had four weeks in which the rate of food scarcity was higher than the national average.
Since week one (April 23 – May 5), Ohio has had four weeks in which the rate of food scarcity was higher than the national average. Food scarcity is defined as the percentage of adults in households where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat in the last seven days. In week 10 (July 2 – July 7) Louisiana, Nevada and Ohio had the highest rates of food scarcity in the country, ranging from 17 to 18 percent. Because of its nature as a short, benchmark survey, the Household Pulse Survey provides only a snapshot of the bigger reality families are facing—but is still comprehensive enough to show trends. 
According to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applications increased exponentially in March and April of this year when stay-at-home and other public health orders were at their peaks. While there have been many delays and much confusion in the unemployment insurance system across the country, and with moratoriums on evictions and utility shut offs up in the air, SNAP has largely managed to avoid such uncertainty. In many cases accessing SNAP benefits has become easier due to the waiving of many administrative rules.
In many cases accessing SNAP benefits has become easier due to the waiving of many administrative rules.
Because of this and the fact that SNAP is an entitlement program with no spending cap, SNAP, in essence, has become the universal safety net, as the least complex and most reliable income people from all backgrounds can count on. And they have. State data collected by the New York Times indicates that from February to May, the SNAP program nationwide grew by 17 percent or about 6 million people. 
Since the start of the pandemic, Community Solutions has tracked and reported on rule and policy changes surrounding SNAP, including SNAP emergency allotments, the Pandemic-EBT program and various waiver approvals that have helped curb hunger during one of the most unparalleled times in our country’s modern history. However, SNAP participation levels suffer because of the way SNAP has been portrayed. The idea that there is shame in asking for help or receiving government benefits has plagued the program and prevented many populations who would qualify from applying.
We should not allow stigma to be responsible for starvation.
Now more than ever it’s important that advocates for social programs challenge the narrative of the “deserving” versus the “undeserving” poor and that misconceptions about recipients being lazy, irresponsible or scammers are debunked. We should not allow stigma to be responsible for starvation.
Am I eligible?
Although SNAP benefits are administered by local agencies, who qualifies is largely determined by federal poverty guidelines which look at household size and gross monthly income.
Ohioans can visit https://ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/site/residents/resources/food-assistance or https://www.freshebt.com/state/ohio/food-stamps-eligibility-income-limits/ to view frequently asked questions, see related programs and even apply online for benefits.
Populations who have historically been excluded from receiving benefits, including college students, Social Security recipients and childless individuals, should not be discouraged from applying for SNAP. Eligibility depends on many factors and many exceptions exist for special circumstances like a pandemic.
How does it work?
Once approved for SNAP benefits, you will receive an electronic benefit transfer card via mail that works like a debit card in most grocery stores, select online retailers for delivery services and select farmer’s markets. The card allows users to purchase most food products excluding prepared food from grocery stores and pet food.
If you or someone you know has additional or specific questions regarding cash assistance, food assistance or other programs visit: https://jfs.ohio.gov/County/County_Directory.pdf to find your local county agency