A New Low? North Carolina Bill Could Boot Thousands Off Food Stamps

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“The elimination of categorical eligibility is additional stress on families who are already stretched incredibly thin, not sure where their next meals will come from.”

Just after North Carolina passed the now-revoked bill requiring transgender children to use bathrooms that align with the gender written on their birth certificates instead of the one they identify with and stripping education funding from Democratic districts, Republicans are now weighing a plan to scrap federal food assistance for tens of thousands of low-income North Carolina households.

According to officials at the state Department of Health and Human Services, the change would cut food benefits from the 2010 expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps.)

It will force an estimated 133,000 people — 55,000 of them under 18 — to be booted off the food assistance rolls. Those children would also stop getting free school meals, compounding their risk of going hungry.

The 2010 law extended coverage to households earning between 133 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level that were also receiving some other public assistance, such as disability payments.

North Carolina

However, Republican Sen. Ralph Hise thinks that the law, under which more people are less hungry, is unfair. He defended the repeal stating that the program creates a pernicious “double standard” for food assistance.

“You’ve got a family of four making $40,000 who can’t qualify because their children are school-aged, but you’ve got another family that maybe makes more, but who qualified for child care subsidies and therefore qualified for food stamps as well. What we are eliminating is that fact that another program automatically qualifies you for food stamps,” said Hise.

The provision by the Republican senator is embedded in a state budget bill.

However, DHHS Deputy Secretary Susan Perry-Manning explained that the program is funded by the federal government, not the state. Therefore, cutting it has no effect on the state budget.

“It doesn’t save the state any money. These are federal dollars that are not capped,” said Perry-Manning said.

On the other hand, Hise’s measure, which would force state aid workers to return to case-by-case evaluations for families seeking food stamps who are currently eligible categorically, will spike state costs. The change requires state workers to spend working hours conducting asset tests on applicants.

“The elimination of categorical eligibility is additional stress on families who are already stretched incredibly thin, not sure where their next meals will come from,” Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina’s Jessica Whichard said.

“This comes at a time of year when we are already concerned about those kids who do receive free or reduced cost school lunches, being out of school for the summer and not having daily access to those meals.”

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