2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

NC Senate budget strips food assistance from children and families

As we wrote about last week, the Senate budget seeks to permanently prevent North Carolina from providing food assistance to low-income families with children through a process known as broad-based categorical eligibility (CAT EL).

A special data request to the Department of Health and Human Services finds that eliminating CAT EL would strip food assistance from more than 133,000 low-income North Carolinians, 51,345 of whom are children who could also lose free or reduced cost school lunch.

Thirty-six percent of the households that will lose food assistance have children, 28 percent support elders, and 23 percent are households with people who have disabilities.

What is most egregious about this provision is that SNAP is completely federally funded. The elimination of CAT El would result in ZERO cost savings to the state.

Not only will this bill result in zero savings, it is very likely that it will increase state administrative costs and hurt local economies. Eliminating broad-based CAT EL makes FNS rules more complicated and burdensome on the Division of Social Services. Rules will have to be changed, NC FAST (the state’s new benefits delivery system) and applications will have to be modified, and staff will have to be retrained. By reducing efficiency and increasing workload, this would likely increase administrative costs—the only state costs associated with FNS benefits—and potentially raise FNS error rates.

The immediate impact of reducing access to food assistance will ripple through local economies as well when families do not have the very modest resources (the average impacted household receives only $68.74 a month) to purchase groceries in their community.  In the long-term, a lack of access to food will impact the health outcomes of families, and, for children, it has been linked to lower educational attainment and lifetime earnings.

There is absolutely no fiscal rational to stripping critical food assistance from tens of thousands of North Carolinians in need. Rather than looking out for the best interest of North Carolinians, state policy makers are choosing to play politics.

2 Comments


  1. Renee

    May 17, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Can you explain the mechanics of this? I don’t really understand. If I’m reading correctly, it looks like the Federal Government offers a simplified way for states to verify if its citizens qualify for benefits such as F&R lunch or food stamps, but the Senate wants to forbid NC from participating? And that by doing so, it makes those benefits out of reach to NC families, even though the state itself pays for the actual benefits? Is that right? Is the “justification” that the state doesn’t want to spend the administrative costs to comply with the qualification system?

  2. Sara Harris

    May 18, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Snap was only meant to give a leg up when at your worst. Not to live on. Children are going to suffer because if this bill. I’m all for tweeking but not eliminating. Let’s take care of one another!

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