North Carolina will reportedly soon implement a new law which will cut benefits for food stamp recipients unless they are able to prove they are working, taking classes, or volunteering for at least 20 hours a week.
This law is actually a reinstatement of a federal requirement for food stamp recipients under 50 without children. This requirement, however, was waived in the state after the 2008 recession drove up unemployment rates. On Jan. 1, the new law was reportedly applied to 23 of North Carolina's 100 counties which have experienced lower unemployment rates in recent years. The state plans to apply this measure to the other 77 counties in July.
What this means is that 115,000 people in North Carolina who currently receive food stamps will need to keep documentation of their work, education and volunteering activities in order to retain food stamp benefits after the standard three-month period, the Charlotte Observer reports.
The North Carolina legislature also voted separately in August 2015 to increase the requirements for unemployment benefits throughout the entire state. Unemployed people filing new claims in the state are now required to make five contacts with prospective employers either online or in person.
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Critics of the measures argue that these increased requirements for both unemployment benefits and food stamps will disproportionately harm the state's poorest residents.
"I represent a district with two cities and 18 small towns, and some of those towns don't have adequate public transportation," Democratic Sen. Angela A. Bryant of North Carolina told HLN.
"That poses an issue, especially for the disabled citizens," she added. "Then we have former offenders -- what do they do if they are denied a job or a volunteer position?"
Rick Glazier, a former state legislator who now heads the North Carolina Justice Center, told the Observer that the measures were "part and parcel of a ripping away of the safety net" and added that the legislature will have to revisit the decisions in the future.
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Glazier specifically referred to the fact that while state leaders have no control over the expiring exemption for food stamps in 23 counties, it was irresponsible to apply the same standards to the rest of the state's counties.
“There’s no data that those 77 counties’ economic conditions are likely to change,” Glazier said.