Some food stamp recipients in North Carolina will be required to meet work requirements in order to receive their benefits once a new law takes effect in July.
In rural Robeson County, the change will impact 2,814 of the county’s 45,000 beneficiaries, The Robesonian reports.
State lawmakers passed the bill last September, and it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in October.
The law reinstates federal work requirements that were a part of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, but were later suspended after the recession hit in 2008, according to The Citizen-Times.
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The changes require that any childless, able-bodied adult between ages 18 and 49 meet certain work requirements in order to continue receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Under the rules, recipients will have three months to find a job, volunteer somewhere, or enter a work-training program. If they do not, they will have their benefits cut for three years. The changes also stipulate that people could lose benefits even if they are trying to find work or are working fewer than 20 hours a week.
However, if a participant is disqualified, they can regain benefits by showing that they can meet the work requirements for a 30-day period and beyond.
The requirements become enforceable Jan. 1 in the state’s most urbanized counties that also have the lowest employment.
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"If jobs are available, we want to encourage work," Sherry Bradsher, deputy secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), told The Citizen-Times.
In more rural counties, like Robeson, the new rules won’t apply until the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, The Robesonian reports.
That county alone receives about $5.5 million in SNAP money per month, or about $66 million per year. That works out to an average of about $36 worth of food per person every month.
“Those who fall under the able-bodied adult category with no dependent children will be reviewed to ensure that they are meeting all requirements every three months,” Sally Speights, the program manager who oversees SNAP benefits for Robeson County's Department of Social Services (DSS), told the Robesonian.
“Today, food stamp re-certifications are all done every six months," she added.
State House Rep. Charles Graham and state Sen. Jane Smith, the two Democrats who represent Robeson County at the state capitol, both voted against the reform bill, citing a shortage of available jobs in the county.