MOUNT VERNON — Changes are coming in January to Ohio residents on the food stamp program as a result of a change in the standard utility allowance (SUA). This announcement comes from Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services, which will send out letters to Ohioans on the program by month’s end.
Through a utility allowance, families responsible for paying one or more eligible utility are able to receive a larger monthly food assistance benefit. The SUA is one of four allowances in place with ODJFS which allows a deduction for households that pay heating and/or cooling costs. Eligible utility bills include heating fuel (gas or oil), electricity, water, sewer, trash collection and telephone.
Benjamin Johnson at the ODJFS Office of Communications explained that the change is due to the recent drop in the cost of natural gas, which is recalculated every year based on the current cost.
“Utility allowances take into account the cost of utilities for families receiving food assistance so that we can build the cost of those utilities into the equation when calculating their benefit amount,” said Johnson. “The utility allowance is not a benefit the clients receive, rather it is a number used when calculating monthly expenses.”
Due to the decreasing cost of natural gas, the standard utility allowance will be reduced from $533 in 2012 to $367 in 2013. Originally, this was determined to deduce food stamp allowances by about $50 a month. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to amend the methodology of recalculations and announced the reduction will be closer to $25.
Knox County JFS Director Matthew Kurtz told the News he was recently made aware of the changes coming effective in January, calling this a “minor adjustment” in the program. His staff will be busy in the coming weeks having to reverify the roughly 3,000 cases of food assistance recipients in Knox County.
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