Childless Adults Could Lose Food Assistance (Food Stamps) Starting July 1st

Courtesy of Senator Angela Bryant:

Based on a decision of the NC Legislature in 2015, effective July 1, 2016, the Food and Nutrition Services Program has a harsh time limit for nondisabled, childless adults ages 18 through 49. These adults will lose their food aid after three months if they can’t find a job, job-training program, or volunteer opportunity for 20 hours per week—regardless if there are enough jobs in our community.

State Lawmakers Restricted SNAP for Adults Who Live in Jobs-Deprived Areas

States may seek a temporary waiver from the three-month time limit for areas—such as the entire state, a region, or a county—with sustained high levels of unemployment or during times of national economic distress. The time limit would have returned for 23 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in 2016 regardless of state action because of an improving economy in those counties. The remaining 77 counties qualified for a year-long waiver but the governor and legislature permanently banned state waivers after July 2016. Now, the three-month time limit will return at least six month sooner for those 77 counties. State policymakers do not have to request a waiver but it is an important tool to ensure people have food to eat and to stabilize the economy in times of economic distress. The new ban eliminates any ability to use SNAP benefits to help alleviate widespread joblessness now or in the future recession. –Tazra Mitchell, NC Justice Center

It is possible that you or someone you may know may be subject to this rule, which is called the time limit for “ABAWDs” (Able-Bodied Adult without Dependents). No matter how hard you look for a job (or a volunteer or a job training program), if you don’t find one in three months, your food assistance is gone unless you meet an exemption listed below. Even if you are working for 19 hours a week, you would lose FNS assistance in putting food on the table.

Below is a chart showing the number of people possibly affected by this rule, which applies regardless of whether these individuals are actually looking to find employment or training opportunities. The second column shows the number of childless adults subject to the rule, and the third column shows the number of childless adults with earned income. It is a possibility that these folks with earned income are working fewer than 20 hours and are not exempt from the time limit.

In addition to working, volunteering, or participating in a job training program for at least 20 hours per week, there are exemptions to the time limit for people in this group who fit any of the following criteria:

  • Under 18 or 50 years of age or older;
  • Physically or mentally unable to work 20 hours per week (even temporarily and can include people who are homeless);
  • Pregnant
  • Part of a FNS benefit household with a child under 18 (the child need not be yours);
  • Providing care for an incapacitated person regardless of where that person lives;
  • Participating in a substance abuse program;
  • Receiving or applied for unemployment benefits; or
  • In a school at least half time (exemption continues during breaks before graduation)
  • Participating in Work First Family Assistance
  • Participating in Refugee Cash Assistance

If none of the above apply, in order to receive FNS benefits for more than 3 months you must work 80 hours per month in some combination of the following:

  • Paid work (including your own business);
  • Volunteering with an approved public or nonprofit agency;
  • Work program such as Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
  • Employment and Training (E&T) program that includes ABAWD qualifying activities (none of the five counties listed in the chart operate a SNAP E&T program); or
  • Have good cause for failure to work 80 hours that month (such as illness, family emergency, or no transportation)

The three month clock starts ticking on July 1st. If you have any questions about this information, contact your county department of social services: Halifax County (252) 536-6515 * Nash County (252) 459-9818 * Wilson County (252) 206-4000 * Warren County (252) 257-1283 * Vance County (252) 492-5001 or call 1-866-719-0141 (North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services)

If you are not exempt, they will need proof that you are meeting the 20 hours per week requirement in order for you to keep your benefits and keep food on the table. If you would like to get involved in fighting for the rights of those that receive food and nutrition benefits, contact Tazra Mitchell, NC Justice Policy Analyst, 919-861-1451.