North Carolina Bill Would Kick 133,000 People off of Food Stamps

Alan Pyke

Alan Pyke Deputy Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

For most people, the food stamps program is about fighting hunger.

For North Carolina state Sen. Ralph Hise (R), however, it seems to be about fighting the concept of unfairness — even if it means booting 133,000 human beings off of the food assistance rolls.

Hise defended the Republican senate leadership’s decision to rescind a 2010 expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) eligibility by arguing that the current system, under which more people are less hungry, isn’t fair.

The 2010 rules make anyone who qualifies for another North Carolina poverty assistance program eligible for food stamps as well, for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. It’s a common policy known as broad-based or categorical eligibility, which streamlines the administrative process for poverty programs whose benefits come from federal dollars, not state budgets.

But to Hise, local NBC affiliate WRAL reports, that program creates a pernicious “double standard” for food assistance.

“You’ve got a family of four making $40,000 who can’t qualify because their children are school-aged, but you’ve got another family that maybe makes more, but who qualified for child care subsidies and therefore qualified for food stamps as well,” Hise said. “What we are eliminating is that fact that another program automatically qualifies you for food stamps.”

Translation: Yes, hunger is bad, but helping some people avoid it while not helping others is even worse.

While the provision Hise defends is embedded in a state budget bill, it will not save North Carolina money. States do not pay for SNAP benefits, instead splitting the tab for administrative work with the federal government. Knocking people off of the program therefore doesn’t ease the state’s budget situation — and making the program’s administration more persnickety actually imposes new, avoidable costs.

By forcing state aid workers to return to case-by-case evaluations for families seeking food stamps who are currently eligible categorically — a change that requires state workers to spend working hours conducting asset tests on applicants — Hise’s measure will drive state costs up.

Pennsylvania’s recent experience is instructive: The state abandoned asset tests for SNAP in 2015 after the governor’s mansion changed hands, a move that helped drastically speed up processing time for applications — thereby doing more work with fewer staff hours, saving taxpayers money.

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 133,000 current enrollees would lose food stamps under Hise’s proposal, and that 55,000 of those people would be children. Those children would also stop getting free school meals, compounding their risk of going hungry.

Even before such a change, the state posts an above-average rate of food insecurity — the technical term for families who sometimes cannot access enough nutrition to support an active and healthy lifestyle. One in six face food insecurity statewide — and in certain eastern counties served by Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, that number is closer to one in four.

“The elimination of categorical eligibility is additional stress on families who are already stretched incredibly thin, not sure where their next meals will come from,” FBCENC’s Jessica Whichard told ThinkProgress. “This comes at a time of year when we are already concerned about those kids who do receive free or reduced cost school lunches, being out of school for the summer and not having daily access to those meals.”

The woe-begetting food aid cut is just one attack on low-income families tucked into the state Republicans’ budget plan. The caucus waited until 3:07 a.m. on Friday to launch several others.

After a contentious night of amendments and counter-amendments, the supermajority Republicans rushed through a budget amendment that strips funding from education programs in Democrat-held districts and wipes out a half-million dollar investment in downtown revitalization.

Robeson County, which sends a Republican to the state Senate, is allowed to keep its downtown revitalization funding under the dead-of-night amendment.

Alan Pyke is the Deputy Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he was a blogger and researcher with a focus on economic policy and political advertising at Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, and PoliticalCorrection.org. He previously worked as an organizer on various political campaigns from New Hampshire to Georgia to Missouri. His writing on music and film has appeared on TinyMixTapes, IndieWire’s Press Play, and TheGrio, among other sites.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work