U.S. House farm bill spells disaster for millions of North Carolinians

Last week, the House Agricultural Committee released its version of the 2018 farm bill. Chairman Conaway’s proposal would increase hunger and further burden struggling North Carolinians by cutting, and in many cases taking away, food assistance. Its effects will ripple through communities, businesses, and farms across generations.

Rather than helping those in need by providing job training opportunities or ensuring workers earn a living wage, this proposal seeks to take away their food. The effects of these harsh changes will be felt by everyone, including parents raising children, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers, and those unable to find jobs.

  • Given that North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation, this bill would be particularly devastating for our residents. In 2016, SNAP reached more than 1.5 million North Carolinians, targeting the most vulnerable folks to help ensure older adults, veterans, and children get enough to eat each day. SNAP benefits also help stimulate the state’s economy. More than 9,700 grocers and retailers participate in the program, which pumped $2.2 billion into the economy last year. On average, from 2011 to 2014, SNAP benefits lifted 175,000 North Carolinians – including 81,000 children – out of poverty. Click here to learn more about who’s hungry in your legislative district.
  • This bill strips flexibility from the state and creates barriers to the efficient delivery of services. By restricting categorical eligibility and imposing an untested child support cooperation mandate, this proposal prevents North Carolina from administering SNAP in a way that is most efficient and follows the evidence. Categorical eligibility (CAT EL) is critical in providing food assistance to low-income families with children. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services find that eliminating CAT EL would strip food assistance from 133,000 North Carolinians, including more than 51,000 children.
  • Countless individuals would be at risk of losing food assistance through no fault of their own. There are more jobless workers than there are job opportunities in 87 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The notion that harsh work requirements would “motivate” jobless workers to find work ignores this fundamental reality. Although North Carolina banned work-requirement waivers for economically depressed counties in 2016, these work requirement provisions would double down on people already struggling to find work and preclude the state from undoing a harmful state law that ignores economic realities. Significantly, it would extend the reach of work requirements to affect parents of children over the age of six and older adults.
  • Funding for new work programs is inadequate and fails to recognize what is needed to get people back to work. Under this proposal, North Carolina will be required to provide employment assistance to every eligible SNAP recipient. While not a bad idea on its own, the proposal only allocates $1 billion for an estimated 3 million participants throughout the nation, amounting to $30 per month per participant.This unfunded mandate at the federal level will be pushed down to North Carolina legislators and leaders to address with resources that have artificially been constrained by tax cuts. Currently, only nine of 100 counties in the state operate SNAP Employment and Training programs. In order to offer meaningful employment and work support, North Carolina would have to invest in a workforce development system that reaches rural communities and provides short-credentials, apprenticeships, subsidized work or on-the-job training. In addition, given the evidence around wrap-around services contribution to supporting employment outcomes, North Carolina would need to make additional commitments to transportation, child care, and affordable housing, among other programs.

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