Beginning Jan. 8, a federal waiver for able-bodied adults receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will end, and recipients in 23 counties in North Carolina will only continue to receive the food stamps if they work, train or volunteer for at least 20 hours a week.
The Associated Press reports the waiver for North Carolina began in 2008, during the last major recession. About half of the adults in the state who qualify for SNAP benefits live in these 23 counties, totaling around 59,000 people.
The 23 counties that will implement the rule were chosen due to their lowered unemployment rates. WRAL reports that waivers will continue to be kept in place in the state's other counties at this time.
Recipients will reportedly be able to receive benefits for up to 90 days after the rule takes effect, even if they are not able to find work within that time.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Sherry Bradsher said that about 80 percent of the state's SNAP recipients have jobs, although she added that those who will not be able to meet the work requirement will need assistance with job placement and training.
"From a readiness standpoint, most of these counties have some infrastructure in place to support these individuals," Bradsher said.
Supporters of the rule hope that it will spur people without jobs to look for employment.
"When this goes into effect, you’re going to see a lot of them either go and get that 20-hour-a-week job, or they're going to enroll in some kind of job education," Republican Sen. Norm Anderson said of the rule in September.
Others are worried that an uneven economic recovery in the state will end up making the rule burdensome in regions where unemployment is slightly higher. This especially includes rural counties.
Wake County Human Services Director Regina Petteway said: "I think some people are just not going to want to or be able to do this."