The way food stamps are distributed in Sampson County will probably change in the future due to work requirements.
According to a report from the Associated Press, more than 1 million low-income residents in 21 states could lose their government food stamps if job requirements are not met. The change in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was made because of the improving economy, but it’s raising concerns. Supporters say some adults looking for work are facing challenges such as disabilities, criminal records or not having a driver’s license.
Sarah Bradshaw, director of the Sampson County Department of Social Services, stated that the new Able-bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWD) and its local effect on recipients is uncertain at this time.
“Of those in the ABAWD category, there will be many in our county who would be able to access transportation and complete ABAWD-related requirements,” Bradshaw said.
The requirements began in 1996 under the welfare reform law signed by President Bill Clinton. Now, a provision applies to able-bodied adults 18 through 49 with no children or other dependents in their home. To receive food aid, it requires them to work, volunteer or attend education or job-training courses for a certain amount of time each month. If not, benefits will be cut off after a few months.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can waive the rules for states, counties and communities if jobs are hard to find. Just about every state received a waiver during the recessions that began in 2008. Statewide waivers recently ended in at least 21 states. An analysis from the Associated Press indicates that 1.1 million adults will lose the benefits if they do not get a job or exemption. Along with Florida and and Tennessee, North Carolina accounts for a big chunk of the total at 110,000.
Bradshaw reported that only 25 percent of counties in North Carolina have implemented the new policy. Sampson County is not one of them, but it may begin in July 2016. She said the county department is expected to have a better handle on the issue, within the next few months as they prepare for the change.
“We are just beginning now to research the data and begin planning for operational changes needed for this,” Bradshaw said.
According to USDA more than 4 million food stamp recipients nationwide are classified as “able-bodied” adults without dependents. Only 1 in 4 has any income from a job and receive an average of $164 a month from the program.
Some politicians believe that recipients are taking advantage of the system.
“We were seeing a lot of people who were receiving food stamps who weren’t even trying to get a job,” said the law’s sponsor, Sen. David Sater, a Republican whose Missouri district includes the tourist destination of Branson. “I know in my area you can find a temporary job for 20 hours (a week) fairly easily. It just didn’t seem right to me to have somebody doing nothing and receiving food stamps.”
But others feel it’s not a simple task to find a job, although the economy is improving.
“There should have been more thought on how we look at employment and not thinking that people are sitting there, getting food stamps because they are lazy and don’t want to work,” said Octavia Rainey, a community activist from Raleigh.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.