A provision in the Senate bill, passed last week, will eliminate food assistance for 133,000 low-income North Carolinians, over 51,000 of whom are children. Specifically, the bill would prevent North Carolina from using a process known as broad-based categorical eligibility. Categorical eligibility allows low-income families with high expenses for things such as child care to qualify for food assistance.
In a recent multiple news articles, Sen. Ralph Hise, sponsor of the original bill, explained the Senate’s rational for including the provision. Hise argued that eliminating categorical eligibility will make SNAP (food stamps) more fair. But what is fair about stripping food assistance from low-income families which children in daycare or a family that faces expenses related to caring for a disabled family member? There is nothing “fair” about that.
Hise continues by also incorrectly arguing that the number of North Carolinians participating in SNAP has seen “tremendous growth” despite the recovery. This could not be further from the truth. Since peaking at 18.4% in August 2011, North Carolina’s SNAP participation rates have dropped to 13.9% today and are at their lowest levels since 2010. Today, fewer North Carolinians are on SNAP than have been since the beginning of The Great Recession, despite a growing North Carolina population.
The reality is that while unemployment has dropped, wages have not kept up with the rising costs of expenses such as child care and rent. Low-income families have fewer resources today to spend on food than ever. Hise concludes his explanation, arguing that the numbers provided to the Senate of people who would lose food assistance was lower than the most recent numbers provided by Department of Health and Human Services.
Regardless of whether or not Sen. Hise believed the number was small or large, the question still remains: When is it ever acceptable to take food away from struggling North Carolinians? Click To Tweet
The answer, obviously, is never.