Nearly 2,700 childless Durham County adults could lose their food stamps April 1 if they can’t meet federal work requirements, officials say.
The federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program limits unemployed adults who don’t have a disability or children to three months of food assistance every 36 months. Single, childless adults without a job can qualify for SNAP benefits of up to $194 a month.
Those rules affect adults from 18 to 49 years old, but were suspended by the federal government during the 2008 recession because of high unemployment. While the rules have been restored, states with a high number of jobless adults can still waive the work requirement.
But the waiver will end Dec. 31 for most North Carolina workers, because of a bill that Gov. Pat McCrory signed earlier this year, known as the Protect North Carolina Workers Act. The bill’s supporters said it would encourage people to get back to work. Critics warn it could leave thousands of single adults jobless and hungry, including many who are veterans, homeless, or in the process of seeking work or disability benefits.
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Only two North Carolina counties reported double-digit unemployment in October: Graham and Scotland. Another 81 counties had an unemployment rate of 5 percent or higher. Durham County’s unemployment rate was 4.8 percent.
The change, regardless of the state’s decision, would have become effective Jan. 1 in 23 counties where jobs are growing, state officials said. The 77 other counties, where jobs are still hard to find, will lose their waivers by July.
The state Department of Health and Human Services reported in October that 44,860 people were receiving food assistance in Durham County. They sent notices this fall to those most at risk of losing their benefits, said Pinky Davis-Boyd, applications program manager at the Durham County Department of Social Services.
The change will not affect those who work, volunteer or attend a job training program at least 20 hours a week, so long as they document those hours, officials said.
The county also is reaching out to homeless individuals through local shelters and running ads on the Durham Television Network, Davis-Boyd said.
DTN is available on AT&T U-verse channel 99 and Time Warner Cable channel 8.
The county will host a job fair Dec. 7 with employers and community partners, including the Volunteer Center of Durham, Davis-Boyd said, and is working with Durham Tech officials to explore other options.
“We’re trying our best to offer them some kind of alternative before they are majorly impacted by this policy,” she said.
The Durham County Department of Social Services is hosting a job fair Monday, Dec. 7, to help people receiving federal food benefits find work and volunteer opportunities. The job fair will be from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Human Services Building, 414 E. Main St. in downtown Durham.
More information about changes to SNAP food benefit requirements and other resources are available by calling Social Services officials at 919-560-8000.