A controversial change in eligibility requirements that likely would have taken 133,000 people off food stamps wasn’t included in the legislature’s final budget.
In North Carolina, people can qualify for the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – commonly known as food stamps – if they receive other government assistance benefits such as disability payments, even if their income level is higher than the maximum income for food assistance. The same policy is used by 38 other states.
The original budget proposal from the state Senate would have ended that “categorical eligibility.” The change wouldn’t have saved the state any money because funding comes from the federal government, but Republican Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County says the change would make the system more fair.
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The provision prompted criticism from Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s Food Bank. But while the change is now unlikely to be made this year, Hise said Wednesday that the issue isn’t dead. He said he “doesn’t think the conversation is complete,” but noted that a similar eligibility change was included in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.
“We’re a wait-and-see on all that,” he said. “If they do act on it, they may be no discussions on it here at the state level.”
For a three-person household, $26,000 is the current maximum annual income to qualify for food assistance. But if that same household receives other types of government assistance, it could earn $39,000 annually and still receive food assistance.