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SNAP Work Requirements in Farm Bill Could Cost NC

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 32 percent of North Carolina seniors live in poverty and regularly confront almost empty food pantries. (Jewel Lake-Parish/Flickr)
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 32 percent of North Carolina seniors live in poverty and regularly confront almost empty food pantries. (Jewel Lake-Parish/Flickr)
May 16, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, more commonly known as the Farm Bill.

While the name might imply it will influence only the country's agriculture industry, the impact extends far beyond that. At stake in this year's legislation are measures that would institute work requirements for SNAP recipients.

It might sound like a reasonable expectation on the surface – but Beth Messersmith, North Carolina campaign director for MomsRising, said the implications run deep in the Tar Heel State.

"When we talk about the Farm Bill, it's not something vague that happens in Washington," she said. "It's going to have very real impacts here at home, and it's particularly going to hit hard parents with young children, those with disabilities, those caring for someone with disabilities and our seniors."

North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and at least one in seven families struggles to put food on its table daily.

More than half of SNAP recipients aleady work, Messersmith said, and those who do not often are incapable of working. Without the benefits, many will rely on community food pantries, already struggling to meet the needs of their communities.

Messersmith said the new work requirements don't take into account fluctuating hours of many service-industry jobs and related needs that come from working, such as child care and transportation.

"If they saw their hours cut at work, they could be at risk of losing their SNAP benefits for up to a year," she said. "Seniors, for example; if they can't meet the minimum number of work requirements because of age discrimination, they would be at risk of losing the SNAP benefits they rely on. "

While the legislation starts at the federal level, Messersmith said it will fall to the states to find funding to enforce the legislation.

"States are going to have to provide increased job training and employment, but it doesn't provide meaningful funding to help states do that," she said, "and it's going to say that states have to track the work hours of these 6 million to 7 million SNAP recipients every month, but it really doesn't provide the funding to make that happen."

The Farm Bill would cut SNAP funding by $17 billion, a savings partly needed to cover the cost of the tax cuts passed by Congress last year. Its text is online at agriculture.house.gov.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC