SNAP Food Stamps require 20 hour work week
Big changes are coming to the food stamp program in North Carolina. On July 1st a select group of recipients will have to meet work or classroom requirements in order to keep their grocery benefits. Sarah Finch has more on these new SNAP program regulations and how local communities are preparing to combat potential hunger pains.
Knowing where their next meal is coming from could be a problem for some food stamp recipients in North Carolina. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, provides low-income families with money to purchase groceries, but it’s changing who qualifies for these benefits.
According to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which serves 34 counties from Raleigh to the coast, there are over 650 thousand people in the region who live in food-insecure households. North Carolina Budget & Tax Center Policy Analyst Tazra Mitchell says SNAP benefits are crucial to these impoverished individuals.
“And we’re talking about a population who’s average income is only about 2,200 dollars a year. They are extremely poor and live without much of a safety net.”
A recent North Carolina law is reestablishing rules that apply to any SNAP recipient ages 18 to 49, who are not disabled and don’t have kids. In order to continue receiving food stamps, this poverty-stricken group will be required to complete a 20 hour mandatory work week. In eastern North Carolina these changes affect approximately 36 thousand people. Policy Analyst Mitchell says this regulation will be problematic in our current economy.
“A majority of the counties in the state have more people looking for work than jobs are available. Anybody who’s able to work should work. That’s not our concern. Our concern is that there isn’t enough opportunity and no matter how hard they look their food aid is gone.”
Under the reinstated guidelines, recipients will have three months to find a job, volunteer somewhere, or enter a work-training program. 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.
North Carolina used to have this requirement but as the recession hit in 2008, the federal government dropped the work and volunteer terms. Now that the economy is bouncing back, state officials have decided to reestablish the stipulations in 23 North Carolina counties. In the other 77 counties showing a somewhat slower economic recovery, SNAP rules will be restored starting July 1st.
People who lose food stamp benefits will probably turn to food banks, which expect more demand for emergency food supplies because of the change. Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina Public Relations and Marketing Specialist Jennifer Caslin says they work with about 882 partner agencies like food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.
“We have been communicating with them that this change is coming. And we have been doing our best as always to bring in more donated food. But our system has been stretched for quite some time.”
In Beaufort County, the Eagles Wings Food Pantry is the largest food pantry in the area, serving over 500 families a month. As they feel more restrictions being imposed on the SNAP food stamps, Eagles Wings Food Pantry Executive Director Ann-Marie Montague says there could be some positives, such as improving the communication between clients and non-profit organizations.
“It gives them an opportunity to be part of the solution. Because several of our clients are probably not going to go back to school. We were hoping that we would have an increase in community service volunteers from the clients that we serve.”
Now, Social Services Departments are shuffling their staff around to help with the upcoming influx of validating food stamp recipient paperwork. Agencies in each county of the state are also moving fast to make sure recipients know about the changes and have opportunities to meet them, and some are even creating their own volunteer programs and job-skills training.
Many of the more rural areas in eastern North Carolina don’t have those privileges. Jones County Social Services Department Economics Services Supervisor Amanda Howard says it definitely puts a strain on the smaller counties, limited in resources.
“We don’t have a lot of industry. We don’t have places that have volunteering options. So it does make it a little more strained. And especially for the clients because transportation is an issue. To go from Jones County to New Bern, you know that’s 20 miles.”
Howard says there are an estimated 150 households in Jones County affected by the legislation changes. Jones County receives about $250 thousand dollars in SNAP money each month, or about $3 million dollars a year. That works out to an average $110 dollars worth of food per person every month. Director of Jones County Department of Social Services Wes Stewart says despite the challenges of being a rural county, they are partnering with Lenoir Community College to help get folks job ready.
“So it’s just not a blanket, on this date you’re going to lose your benefits. There are options and they need to be explored. And we want to help folks do that.”
To learn more about the SNAP requirements and changes, visit:
To contact your local Department of Social Services, visit: