Cuyahoga County alerted in September of new food stamp guidelines

County: Sept. alert not enough time to prepare

CLEVELAND - Cuyahoga County officials were notified in early September that significant changes in food stamp eligibility would become effective in January despite claims that "almost no notice" was given.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald announced Thursday, during a news conference underscoring the extent of the need for families to have access to food stamps, that "we were given almost no notice that the state was going to change its policy".

But a news release dated September 6, 2013 from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the state agency that oversees Ohio's food stamp program, outlined key changes.

"Beginning October 1, 2013," the release said, " county departments of job and family services will have three months to ensure that able-bodied adults without dependents are attending a qualifying work or training program for at least 20 hours each week."

Fitzgerald expressed concern that the county will have to spend upwards of $800,000 in overtime and "scramble" to make sure 29,000 food stamp recipients in Cuyahoga remain eligible.

But Joseph Gaunter, Administrator of Cuyahoga County's Department of Jobs and Family Services, concedes the county was "aware" that changes would be implemented as far back as the end of August.

Even so, Gaunter insists that with case workers already being responsible for 650 cases each and training already underway involving prior changes to the food stamp program, resources within the department are already strained.

Gaunter says, despite the notice, it would still have taken until November to begin the outreach process to food stamp recipients and it will remain a "scramble" to accomplish that by year's end.

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