Commentary

McCrory calls for food benefits for hurricane victims, denies them to victims of economic storms

SNAPGov. Pat McCrory’s office has become a press release machine in recent days as it has sought to narrate every micro-development in the Hurricane Matthew story and, not coincidentally, keep the guv in the public eye. Few of the releases are truly newsworthy, but a couple ought to cause a raised eyebrow or two.

Take, for instance this morning’s lengthy and frequently muddled release. Buried near the bottom was the following sentence, which probably seemed to the authors to be a harmless throwaway line:

“Governor McCrory is calling for additional support for families regarding food stamps and the deadline to file taxes.”

Setting aside the utter lack of clarity (How? Who? When ? Where?), the statement also begs the following obvious question: Why now?

Just a few months ago, the governor was only too happy to slash food benefits (they’ve actually been called SNAP benefits rather than “Food Stamps” for years now) to people living in counties still plagued by high unemployment rates. As Chris Fitzsimon explained in an August radio commentary, one of the biggest drops in SNAP participation caused by the recent cuts approved by McCrory has been in Alexander County — a county in which there are 2.5 unemployed people for every available job. If the guv is so supportive of public food assistance for people harmed by storms, what the heck is the difference between a weather-related storm and an economic storm? The impact is the same; people go hungry and suffer through no fault of their own. As I noted last October in this column:

“These benefits provide an average of something on the order of $30 per week in food assistance – all of which is paid by the federal government….

Obviously, the central problem with this approach [cutting people off to encourage them to find work] is that it ignores common sense and the reality on the ground. Simply put, 100,000 North Carolinians aren’t sitting around not looking for work because they can get a few bucks per week to buy a little bit of food. If there were jobs available – even lousy, part-time jobs – these people would obviously be much better off working than merely receiving SNAP benefits. (And if a few hundred people were somehow milking the system for such a pathetic benefit, all one can say is ‘God forbid!’)”

The bottom line: It’s all well and good that the McCrory administration has decided to help some of the people suffering as the result of Hurricane Matthew, but the standard for offering such assistance (that they were victims of events beyond their control) applies to thousands of other good people in our state who are going hungry right now thanks to the the actions of the General Assembly and the governor. The blatant hypocrisy evident in this double standard raises real questions about the governor’s motives in his recent, highly publicized embrace of the social safety net.

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