NEWS of the Day - November 12, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - November 12, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


Ohioans' food stamp aid to be cut

Benefit to fall $50 a month starting in January


Ohio families receiving food stamps could get an unwelcome surprise come January: $50 less every month in assistance.

For the 869,000 households enrolled in the program for the poorest Ohioans, that could amount to about $520 million annually out of the grocery budgets.

Because of the way the federal government calculates utility expenses for people receiving the benefit, a mild winter nationwide last year, and a lower price for natural gas, many families could experience a significant cut in aid, those familiar with the program say.

Recipients should get a letter from the state Department of Job and Family Services this month explaining the change, said Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the agency.

Meanwhile, food banks and others that distribute food assistance are bracing for increased demand.

“They are going to increase hunger among our most vulnerable — working families, seniors, children, and persons with disabilities,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said her organization is particularly concerned that some seniors or persons with disabilities who have a low benefit amount could lose all their monthly assistance.

“We're really worried about [the change],” she said.

What's called the “standard utility allowance” — the amount deducted from a person's income when the state determines his or her eligibility for the food stamp program — will decrease by $166 for 2013, translating to about $50 less per household in food assistance. State Job and Family Services officials tried to appeal the change to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but the USDA denied the request.

USDA officials did not respond to requests from The Blade for comment.

State and county Job and Family Services officials say there is little they can do other than letting their clients and community partners who provide food assistance know about the changes.

“This is a federal issue,” said Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Directors' Association. “It is what it is. They have a formula. ... We just think it is going to be really hard on families and individuals. They will see significantly less money starting in January.”

The average food-stamp recipient receives $138 per person, per month, according to state statistics. As of August, more than 1.7 million individual Ohioans, or about 869,000 families, received the assistance. A total of $3 billion in benefits was issued in 2011 in Ohio; the program is federally funded.

In Lucas County, about 91,000 people — 46,000 households — receive the benefit. Fifty fewer dollars per household per month would amount to about $27 million annually.

“It's a concern,” said Deb Ortiz-Flores, director of Lucas County's Job and Family Services agency. “Fifty dollars can buy quite a bit of food.”

Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in southeastern Ohio, said the loss of funds will cause a true hardship.

“Fifty dollars would be devastating” to families, he said. “These are folks that have already fallen off the fiscal cliff.” Mr. Frech added that many of his agency's clients are not affected by lower natural gas prices.

“The majority of folks [here] don't heat with natural gas in the first place,” he said. “They heat with fuel oil and propane.”

The Rev. Steve Anthony, executive director of Toledo Area Ministries, said, “It will put a strain on all organizations that provide emergency food. We're going to have to find alternatives. We can't pull food or money out of thin air.”

TAM runs the Feed Your Neighbor program, which has 13 food pantries in Toledo and surrounding suburbs.



From ICE

Detainee Intercultural Center is a place for spiritual reflection

The newly-established Detainee Intercultural Center at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) El Paso Processing Center in Texas is a place where men and women in ICE custody can reflect, meditate and worship. The modest 13-by-55 foot structure is part of the existing building.

"The El Paso Processing Center is the only ICE detention facility in the country with such a dedicated center," said Sandra Marinelarena, the interim assistant field office director, addressing the group of attendees at the center's dedication ceremony held in early October.

"The new Detainee Intercultural Center, not onlyserves the spiritual needs of people in our custody, but it's part of ICE's larger effort to reform the immigration detention system as a whole," said ICE Field Office Director Adrian Macias. "For the past three years, ICE has been making a concerted effort to move away from a punitive immigration detention system to one that's more suited to civil immigration. The Detainee Intercultural Center in El Paso is another positive step in that direction."

Also in attendance at the dedication ceremony was Father Joseph Molina of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in northeast El Paso, who blessed the new center. Leaders of all religious denominations are available at the Detainee Intercultural Center to minister to the spiritual needs of detainees, as well as lead religious services.

The El Paso Processing Center, sometimes referred to as the El Paso Immigration Detention Center in El Paso, houses immigrant detainees who are awaiting deportation or have pending immigration cases before the El Paso Immigration Court. The facility has space for approximately 840 inmates and an average daily population of 750 adult detainees. Because of the facility's proximity to the border, it sometimes serves as a staging area for ICE to hold immigrants before removal. Detainees at the processing center are awaiting deportation for criminal activity or are being held for entering the country illegally.

Learn more about the El Paso Processing Center.