Over the last few years, North Carolina has remained one of the hungriest places in the US. With one in six people defined as “food-insecure,” North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation.
Plans to cut federal taxes in a way that will grow the deficit, like the one to be voted on by the Senate upon return from Thanksgiving break, are likely to put many of the programs that address hunger at risk in the next year.
Homes that are food insecure often have to make sacrifices on the quality or the amount of food they consume, just so everyone can have enough. Many of these families worry that food will run out or are concerned about being able to provide a balanced meal for growing children. In some instances, family member skip meals in order to make food stretch.
Programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formally known as Food Stamps) are critical in helping families put food on the table. In 2016, more than 1.5 million North Carolinians participated in SNAP. Although SNAP has proven to be one of the most effective ways to fight poverty, it is at very real risk.
The tax bill currently being debated by the Senate could have a devastating impact on hungry North Carolinians by adding $1.5 trillion to the national deficit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in order to pay for the tax cuts over the next decade, SNAP spending will be reduced by $140 billion. And while some states may be able to continue to support people through robust safety nets, North Carolina will not.
Over the past few years, state legislators have continued to make decisions that harm people in need of help. In 2015, policymakers in Raleigh passed a bill that kicked up to 100,000 North Carolinians off of SNAP by allowing a harsh and unnecessary three-month time limit to return. In addition to specifically targeting people in need of food assistance, by continuing to pass tax cuts that benefit the wealthy at the state level, policymakers have failed to invest in programs that support a majority of North Carolinians.
In a nation of so much and in a state that has seen growing wealth yet stagnant wages, it’s unconscionable that families would not have enough food to put on the table. The reality is that many struggling North Carolinians are working hard, yet falling short. Last year, nearly half of all SNAP recipients were in working families and almost 70 percent were in families with children. Surely, our elected officials can do better than to punish these struggling families.
Brian Kennedy II is a Public Policy Fellow with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.