With holiday celebrations around the corner, hunger remains an unfortunate reality for many in the Charlotte area and statewide. In fact, North Carolina has the 9th highest level of food insecurity in the nation, and 16.7% of North Carolinians lack the resources they need to get enough nutritious food for a healthy life. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) plays a critical role in helping individuals and families afford food; however, beginning next year, these critical benefits will become more difficult for many to receive.
Beginning January 1, 2016, childless, non-disabled adults living in 23 N.C. counties, including Mecklenburg, will be limited to three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period if they are not able to find work, volunteer or job training activities totaling at least 20 hours per week. These same changes are coming to the rest of North Carolina by July 2016. This means that thousands of Mecklenburg County’s poorest residents will be cut off from SNAP early next year. Research suggests that many of those cut off face serious hardship, with some being on the brink of homelessness.
The availability of a safety net affects us all. The return of the SNAP time limit means food banks and pantries will see increased demand, shelters may see an increase in need as people skip rent to put food on the table, and medical providers may see more of their most vulnerable patients forgo medications to buy food, especially since our state government declined Medicaid expansion.
The SNAP time limit is complex and challenging to administer. We remain committed to working with other stakeholders to ensure these changes are implemented fairly and accurately, and that those who are either working or exempt are not wrongfully denied. As always, individuals facing obstacles accessing food stamps or other benefits are invited to contact us.
For more information on this policy change, check the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report.