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For The Week Of February 2, 2017 Through February 8, 2017

Proposed Bill to Ban Sanctuary Cities is Unconstitutional, Says ACLU of Ohio

By Gongwer Staff
Posted: February, 8 2017 10:04 AM

Cleveland—Yesterday, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and state Representative Candice Keller (R-Middletown) announced their support for a bill that would outlaw cities from declaring themselves as “sanctuary cities,” and would prohibit cities from limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. This bill has not yet been introduced to the Ohio General Assembly.

“Immigration enforcement is a federal issue, not a local or state one, and federal law does not require cities to help with immigration enforcement,” said Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director at the ACLU of Ohio. “This bill would attempt to punish localities and city officials for not violating constitutional rights. This is extremely counterproductive and makes our communities less safe by pitting law enforcement against immigrant communities.

This proposed legislation comes in response to both Columbus and Cincinnati taking steps to identify as sanctuaries. Additional cities and municipalities may adopt and defend policies that will keep immigrant communities safe.

“This bill is extreme. It would dole out civil and criminal penalties to local officials, but also make our communities less safe. Local law enforcement should be building relationships with immigrant communities, yet this would discourage victims of crime or concerned community members from coming forward and working with police. ,” Brickner said.

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Auditor Yost, legislators announce legislation to curb fraud in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

By Gongwer Staff
Posted: February, 8 2017 10:00 AM

Columbus – In an effort to curb fraud in Ohio’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Auditor of State Dave Yost, Rep. Tim Schaffer and Sen. Matt Huffman announced new legislation to require photos of many recipients on the state’s SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

Last June, an audit of Ohio’s $2.5 billion SNAP program, commonly known as the food stamp program, found system weaknesses that allow for benefits of a deceased person to be claimed, excessive account balances, questionable out-of-state transactions and other instances of potential fraud.

“The problems we found in that audit were very concerning, not only to me but to Ohio lawmakers as well,” said Auditor Yost, who was joined at the announcement by Senate President Larry Obhof. “Clearly, it suggested there is fraud occurring in this program. The error rate for the food stamp program in Ohio is almost 5 percent – which is too high. Today we are taking steps to address the issue with new legislation.”

During a news conference held today in the Ohio Statehouse, Yost said the bills Schaffer (R-Lancaster) and Huffman (R-Lima) plan to introduce will include:

           Photo identification: On the front of each EBT card, a color photograph of at least one member of the household to whom the card is issued;

           Telephone number and website: On the back of the card, a telephone number and website where suspected fraud can be reported;

           Exemptions: The new requirements will not apply to adult household members who are age 60 or older; are blind; have a disability; are a victim of domestic violence, have religious objections to being photographed or if the household does not include any adult members.

“I’m looking forward to working with Auditor Yost to address inefficiencies in the SNAP program while also ensuring that benefits are getting to those who need them,” Rep. Schaffer said, whose legislation was introduced today. “No one will lose their benefits under this legislation, and it will help ensure that their benefits are not being abused by others through fraud or theft.”

Said Sen. Huffman: “It is a reprehensible act to steal money and goods from the poorest of the poor. I look forward to working with the Auditor and Representative Schaffer to create a common sense, simple solution to protect the benefits of Ohio’s neediest families.”

The legislation is an outgrowth of Auditor Yost’s testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, during which he suggested adding photographs of recipients to their cards would help deter fraud.

“The time to tighten this program is now,” Auditor Yost said. “We have enough evidence proving that taking action is overdue. I am grateful for Rep. Schaffer and Sen. Huffman’s interest and action in strengthening Ohio’s SNAP program so we can ensure that available resources are going to those who need them most.”

SNAP is a federal program created to help low-income families and individuals purchase food for an adequate diet. Recipients receive about $1.39 per person per meal in food benefits. During fiscal year 2016, Ohio averaged 1.6 million SNAP participants per month out of 11.5 million residents. (See Attachment A, B) In Ohio, SNAP is administered by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

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