Editorials

Sen. Hise wants to kick 133,000 people off food stamps just because

Sen. Ralph Hise
Sen. Ralph Hise cseward@newsobserver.com

This session of the North Carolina General Assembly isn’t over, but it’s a safe bet that Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County will be awarded the sorry prize for legislation that is most cruel to men, women and children in need.

His budget provision, tucked into the budget but admirably unearthed by N.C. Policy Watch, a liberal advocacy group, would change the eligibility for the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Funding for the program is federal. No state tax money is involved. But Hise says he wants to change the eligibility requirements to make the program more fair.

That will mean 133,000 people, including children, will lose food stamps. This is a despicable, just-plain-mean action from an underachieving senator who’s following the Republican tradition of sticking it to the poor and defenseless.

Food stamp eligibility was expanded during the recession. But even then, it was not and never has been some huge boondoggle wherein people were using the money for anything other than basic food requirements for themselves and their families.

State legislators (led by Republicans) already reinstated a work requirement for food stamps that had been suspended. (A federal rule also was reinstated for some counties.) Under current rules, people can qualify for food stamps if they get other government benefits that send their income level past the maximum allowed for food stamp eligibility. Hise – the measure is in the Senate budget – would curb that rule.

In an absurd explanation, Hise said the provision “closes a loophole that ballooned under the Obama administration” and was designed to “ensure benefits are delivered to those who are truly in need of them.”

Ah, playing the “Obama administration” card to build support from other right-wing Republicans. Hise might want to ask President Trump how that strategy is going.

There is nothing wrong with allowing people whose income may inch past eligibility ceilings to get some food stamps. It is a compassionate policy and changing it will hurt children – for whom the poverty rate is high. More children will go hungry if Hise’s idea makes its way into the final budget. It’s that simple.

Not a bit of the money involved comes from North Carolinians. This is not a case of state coffers being drained to provide for people trying to cheat the system. They’re not trying to cheat the system, for one. And this is a federal program, which makes Hise’s action little more than a slap at the poor for political sport.

House Republicans will understand the cruelty and the ridiculousness of this provision, we hope, and strike it from the final version of the budget. To not do so is riskier than they may think: It is actions such as this that can galvanize opponents. Remember HB2?

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