FILE - SNAP Food Stamps

A supermarket displays stickers indicating they accept food stamps.

The number of North Carolinians who receive food assistance has fallen by 5.6 percent over the past year.

According to figures from the state’s Department of Human and Health Service, more than 70,000 residents did not enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in August when compared to August 2018. More cuts also may be on the way for the program.

The Trump Administration in July announced a nearly 9 percent rollback to the federally-funded, state-run program. North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein issued a letter this week opposing the federal cutbacks.

“Hunger makes doing the most basic things harder – it’s harder for kids to learn, harder for adults to work, harder for seniors to stay healthy,” he said. “These changes to our SNAP program would harm some of our most vulnerable neighbors. I urge the federal government to rescind this proposed rule, which is cruel and unnecessary.”

Stein and 23 other attorneys general sent the letter Monday to the Department of Agriculture in which they contend that the proposed rule would violate federal law and harm the states, its residents, economies and public health.

Stein said that it will take away food from 3 million Americans and disqualify thousands of children from free school meals. 

The Foundation for Government Accountability disputes this. The FGA wrote a policy piece in July that calculated how many kids would lose food stamps or school lunches. Researchers said 99.9 percent of kids who get a free school lunch will still get a free lunch under standard eligibility guidelines.

"No matter how many times people say so, eliminating BBCE will not take away free or reduced priced lunches from kids," the FGA's Sam Adolpshen told The Center Square. "If anything, closing the loophole will ensure these benefits are actually available for those that need them. The only people losing benefits will be those with incomes far in excess of original program requirements, people who never should have been receiving food stamps to begin with."

The Snap program, also as known as food stamps, is available for North Carolina households with annual incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. More than 1.2 million North Carolinians received Snap benefits in August. 

According to a report released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, up to 10 percent of the state’s SNAP participants could lose benefits. That’s roughly around 150,000 North Carolinians. Each participant could lose an average of $59 monthly. About 9 percent of those participants will be children, and 16 percent are elderly. Children who qualify for SNAP can auto-enroll into free school meal programs.

Critics of the program say it is susceptible to cheating and fraud and eligibility standards permit undeserving high-income participants to qualify because their large deductions result in low net incomes, according to a 2018 United States Department of Agriculture report.

To demonstrate the loopholes, a Minnesota man and his wife, worth more than $1 million, successfully enrolled in the SNAP program.

The letter opposing the Trump Administration cuts was also signed by attorneys general for the District of Columbia, New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

 

 

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.