A bill has passed the North Carolina House of Representatives that would institute greater penalties for food stamp recipients in that state who fail to report their lottery winnings.
The bill would require the state Lottery Commission to report the names of winners that receive prizes of more than $2,250 to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the federal agency that runs the food stamp program known as SNAP, reports the Charlotte Observer.
Officials would then be required to check the list of winners against the names of food stamp recipients. According to WRAL, those winners wouldn’t automatically lose benefits, but they would be reassessed for eligibility.
However, if winners fail to report their winnings, they become subject to new, stricter consequences, says the Charlotte Observer. The first two offenses would mean temporary benefit suspensions, while a third offence would result in permanent disqualification from benefits.
The House passed the bill by a 75-38 vote “largely along party lines” with most Democrats opposed, reports North Carolina local newspaper the Times-News.
Republican Representative Bert Jones, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill would crack down on welfare fraud that drains federal funds. “As many as 4 million people may be receiving food stamps despite having resources above these federal limits,” he told reporters, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Jones proposed an amendment to the bill clarifying that only the lottery winner would lose benefits and not their entire family. The amendment was passed unanimously, according to the Times-News.
Opponents of the bill say it would put the most vulnerable citizens at greater risk. Democratic Representative Beverly Earle argued against the $2,250 minimum, telling WRAL, “Most folks don’t get enough food stamps for what they need. A $2,000 influx would just be an extra something to take care of some other bills that they have.”