Food Stamp regulation reinstated, food banks prepare to help more people

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Ten days into the new year and North Carolina food banks are worried a change in law will send more people their way.

It’s a federal law for food stamp recipients that North Carolina legislators suspended in 2008 during the so-called “great recession.”

This year that waiver is over, meaning a portion of those recipients will have to dedicate 20 hours of their week to work, class or community service. If they cannot prove they are dedicating that time, they will lose the benefits.

“Most people do want to work but unfortunately the economic situation in a lot of our counties is that there aren’t enough jobs available for everybody,” said Jennifer Caslin, Spokeswoman for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Caslin says the recession hasn’t ended for everyone.

“Things don’t seem to be getting better for a lot of people. We distribute more and more food each year, and that goes for our rural counties as well,” she said.

But the federal regulation requiring food stamp recipients ages 18 to 50 to put in 20 hours of work, school or volunteering each week, is back in place. The waiver ended on Jan. 1 for 23 North Carolina counties, including Durham and Wake.

It will start again in the other 77 counties on July 1. Caslin says in the 34 counties her food bank serves, that will affect about 35,000 people.

“Without those food stamp benefits it’s more likely now those people are going to be almost entirely relying on the emergency food assistance from a shelter or soup kitchen,” said Caslin.

Legislators say the economy has recovered enough and it’s time to motivate folks to get back on their feet. Despite that reasoning, Caslin says they’re preparing for negative effects.

“Our system is going to be stretched more than it was before and it was already stretched. So we’re going to have to distribute more food than ever before, which takes funds and it takes support from the community,” said Caslin.

The food stamp regulations will not be applied to anyone who has a dependent or is unable to work. If a recipient does not meet the requirements, they can still receive up to three months of benefits.

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