DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – As budget negotiations at the Ohio Statehouse continue, food security advocates are sounding the alarm over what they say is a threat to families that rely on SNAP benefits.

It’s not finalized yet but advocates, like those that work at the state’s network of foodbanks, say it would make it harder for people to prove they qualify for the assistance, and therefore harder to get the food they need.

“SNAP is the most critical line of defense against hunger. And these provisions are related to limiting eligibility of snap are really looking for problems that simply don’t exist,” said Joree Novotny is the Director of External Affairs at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

The Ohio Association of Foodbanks says more than one and a half million Ohioans rely on SNAP benefits to help them get nutritious food every week, and new restrictions proposed in the Ohio budget could limit who gets food and how often.

“This would be incredibly harmful to working families, seniors, people living with disabilities, caregivers and kids,” said Novotny.

The new measures proposed by Ohio Republicans aim to cut down on fraud and tighten how people report their eligibility. But food security advocates say the SNAP program has one of the lowest fraud rates of any public assistance program in the country.

“We really think this will have the opposite effect of what folks are talking about. And these particular measures are really harmful for workers,” said Novotny.

We asked to speak with Republican proponents Monday, but none were available for an interview. A spokesperson responded with: “This simply follows federal guidelines. We want to make sure these critical funds are available to those who need them the most.”

Advocates say there’s already adequate oversight to make sure the funding is not abused.

“But the more red tape you add to the program, the more likely folks are going to fall through the cracks, and the more likely Ohio is going to hit with additional federal penalties when we fail to meet our quality control requirements,” said Novotny.

The SNAP program provides nine meals for every one meal a foodbank can provide. Joree Novotny says limiting who gets SNAP benefits or how much they get could also impact local economies, adding it could drastically impact local markets and grocery stores.