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Last-Minute Legislation Jeopardizes SNAP Benefits for Thousands in N.C.

The pressure is on for Gov. Pat McCrory to veto legislation that would eliminate SNAP benefits for thousands of North Carolinians next July. Credit: Alvimann/Morguefile.
The pressure is on for Gov. Pat McCrory to veto legislation that would eliminate SNAP benefits for thousands of North Carolinians next July. Credit: Alvimann/Morguefile.
October 1, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – After taking months to iron out a state budget, North Carolina lawmakers are now pushing bills that could have as great an impact on the state's citizens as the budget.

One of those bills is House Bill 318, which includes a provision that could impact the eligibility of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for thousands of residents.

According to Alexandra Sirota with the N.C. Budget and Tax Center, the bill will prohibit the state from accessing federal waivers to the amount of time childless adults can receive the benefits – and also impact any waivers offered in the future.

"You can imagine two, three years from now if we were to have another Great Recession, the state would no longer be able to apply for this time-limit waiver to provide food assistance to those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own," says Sirota.

Current unemployment rates are high enough in 77 of the state's 100 counties to qualify for the waiver. If Gov. Pat McCrory signs the bill, as many as 105,000 North Carolinians would lose access to SNAP benefits after July 2016. Supporters of eliminating the waiver argue it is possible for people to find work to support themselves.

But as lawmakers move to reduce access to food assistance, unemployment rates in 72 counties have increased – and Sirota says there is still not enough job-training assistance to help those who can't find a job secure the training needed to make it in the workforce.

"The challenge, of course, is that in so many communities across the state, there are too few jobs and too few training opportunities to support those who want to work," she says, "and who want to get the skills that are needed for work."

Sirota adds the missing SNAP benefits will equal millions of dollars that won't be spent in the local economy.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC