Thousands at risk of losing food stamps under new work requirements

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Starting next week, thousands of food stamp recipients across the state could be at risk of losing their benefits unless they work at least 20 hours a week.

As of July 1, this applies to able-bodied adults without dependents ages 18 to 49. There are some exemptions, like doing volunteer work or taking classes.

23 counties implemented the new requirements in January. Social Service departments in the 77 others, including most of the East, have been scrambling to prepare. Many have hired additional social workers or created their own volunteer and job training programs.

Pitt County Social Services Director Jan Elliott said if the plan is successful, she expects it to help the economy, “As long as jobs are available and resources are available, then I think it’s a wonderful thing for us to be working towards helping folks be self-sufficient, self-supporting, because that’s what most folks want to be anyway.”

To get a better sense of who will be affected, Pitt County has been surveying food stamp recipients. Of the 33,000 county food stamp recipients, only about 5,000 will be held to these new requirements. Of those surveyed, about 78% have a high school diploma, about 75% have reliable transportation, and about 10% have a criminal background.

Elliott doesn’t expect everyone to meet these requirements in the next 3 months, but she’s working to help as many as she can, “Anybody who has a desire to get [an] education, do volunteer work that would exempt them, get a job, we want to be able to help them do that.”

Elliott expects about 500 to 700 of those impacted to come to social services for help. They plan to hold job fairs through October to employ as many people as possible.

Elliott expects this to impact food banks, as people look for other ways to get food if they lose their food stamps in October.

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