Much like voter ID laws have little to nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with stopping black people from voting, so is the anti-welfare movement about stopping black and brown people from receiving government monies, while preserving it for whites when possible. In 1996, John Kasich voted for a bill in Congress that limited food stamps for childless adults. But he also pushed for an amendment to it that would allow states flexibility to do with high unemployment areas. Today, as Ohio governor, Kasich is using that amendment to grant food stamps to whites while denying them to blacks.
In 2014, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had the option to waive time limits on food stamps for the entire state. Due to a struggling economy and high unemployment, Ohio had qualified for and accepted this statewide waiver from the US Department of Agriculture every year since 2007, including during most of Kasich’s first term as governor. But this time, Kasich rejected the waiver for the next two years in most of the state’s 88 counties. His administration did accept them for 16 counties in 2014 and for 17 counties in 2015. Most of these were rural counties with small and predominantly white populations. Urban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations, did not get waivers.
The decision would result in a drastic downsizing of food aid in the state, but the administration moved with surprising speed given the enormity of the impact. “It was really fast,” says Kate McGarvey, deputy director of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. In August 2013, she says, the legal services community had heard that Ohio qualified for a statewide waiver, and was setting up meetings with the ODJFS to discuss how the state might proceed. “Within a week or two, we were told, ‘It’s going to be a partial waiver, it’s already been submitted, it’s done,'” McGarvey says. “No advocates that I know of were given a chance to give feedback on the wisdom of the partial waiver.”
The policy went into effect in October 2013. By January—the three-month mark where those without waivers began losing their food stamps if they couldn’t meet the work requirement—it had become clear that the policy had spawned a stark racial disparity in food aid. Across the 16 counties the state had selected for waivers, about 94 percent of food stamp recipients were white. Overall in Ohio in December 2013—immediately before the new policy’s effects began to surface—food stamp recipients were 65 percent white.
By March 2014, six months into the new system, the six counties with the highest rate of terminating food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults were all counties populated mostly by minorities.
This of course will be seen as a positive by Republican primary voters. Whether or not Kasich and his people intended this to discriminate is not known. But they do know it currently discriminates and have done nothing to alleviate that.