LIMA — The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has seen roughly 1,000 Allen County households fall off its eligibility lists in the last three years, thanks in part to an improving regional economy and a business-friendly environment, Allen County Department of Job and Family Services (ACDJFS) Director Joe Patton said.
The improving economy has created plenty of job opportunities — roughly 1,600 jobs are listed on the Ohio Means Jobs website as of Wednesday in Lima — for low-income SNAP eligible individuals. Since the uptick in employee demand, ACDJFS has had an easier time moving individuals into working positions, which in turn, can bring them out of SNAP eligibility.
“Once you’re on (the eligibility list), we try to find a position through Ohio Means Jobs, and local businesses have been great at providing opportunities for them to segue into those positions,” Patton said.
Patton said the number of households eligible for SNAP peaked at 7,800 households in earlier years, and it has steadily declined as the economy improved. As of December 2017, 6,000 households in Allen County qualify for SNAP.
The high number of jobs available also means those categorized as Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependants (ABAWDs) don’t have the option to waive the work requirement of SNAP in order to receive benefits.
Allen Economic Development Group President/CEO Jeff Sprague said he heard about the decrease in SNAP beneficiaries from Columbus-based think-tank Greater Ohio Policy Center, which has been digging through Allen County statistics and creating potential policy recommendations for the Ohio legislature.
“What Joe’s doing from an economic development perspective is work with employers and make sure we can move those candidates from public assistance into the work force,” Sprague said.
The Allen Economic Development Group, along with other development organizations, have been working to increase the communication between community partners, educators and businesses looking to expand in order to have a work force capable of fulfilling the business community’s future needs, Sprague said. Those efforts are reflected through the ACDJFS’s work in matching potential job candidates, such as SNAP beneficiaries, with industries utilizing the growing economy to add jobs.
The end result is a low unemployment rate, economic growth and less reliance on tax-assisted programs like SNAP.
“(Economic development) has to be business-focused and business-led. They’re the job creators. They’re looking at what positions they need. We listen to what they demand, so we can go back to community partners and start to look how to fill that funnel,” Sprague said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.