Food stamp work rule nothing to do with race, just jobs

Ohio was in hot water with federal officials a few years ago, for failing to enforce so-called “work requirements” for people seeking food stamps. Buckeye State officials complied with the mandate from Washington, through more vigor in enforcing the rule.

Now some of those rejected for food stamps because of the rule are seeking help – from the federal government.

That makes no sense at all, of course. It would make less sense if someone in Washington decides to abandon the rule in Ohio.

Under food stamp rules, those receiving benefits must spend at least 20 hours a week looking for work, volunteering their labor, going to school or receiving some sort of vocational training. After Ohio officials began complying with Washington’s mandate that they enforce that stipulation, they asked that waivers from it be granted in 16 of the state’s 88 counties.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, who administer the food stamp program, agreed. The reasoning was that unemployment was particularly high in those 16 counties.

But now the state is the target of a civil rights complaint by several groups claiming the waivers discriminated against racial minorities. They point out that minorities are 37 percent of Ohio’s population, while the waiver counties are composed of just 6 percent minorities.

The complaint asks that the waivers be extended to all 88 counties.

In order to be politically correct, it is entirely possible USDA officials will cave in and allow the change.

But that would mean that food stamp applicants in areas where it is easier to find jobs still would not be required to comply with the work mandate.

Either the “work requirement” is a good idea or it is not. Deciding whether to enforce it based on an area’s racial makeup would be ridiculous.

State officials should fight the complaint. The waivers had nothing to do with racial discrimination – and everything to do with giving people a break because they live in high-unemployment areas, regardless of race.