LAURINBURG —Workers with Scotland County Department of Social Services are getting the word out to some participants in the SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — that they could be in jeopardy of losing benefits.
Starting July 1, Scotland County will join more than 70 other counties in the state in reinstating a 1996 law that puts stipulations on getting the benefits.
The 1996 mandate was suspended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2008 when the economy crashed and unemployment rates skyrocketed, increasing the number of people across the country who needed food stamps in order to eat. The exemption ended Jan. 1 for 23 counties in North Carolina.
According to the reinstated rules, those who are 18 to 49 years old; able bodied; and without dependents must work, volunteer or enroll in an education training program for 80 hours a month.
The rule is expected to affect about 450 recipients in Scotland County. There are currently 11,355 county residents on SNAP.
“We did this years ago,” said April Snead, director of Scotland County DSS. “It was written into law in 1996 and was done through 2002 when North Carolina got a waiver not to do it because of the unemployment rate. But now that waiver is gone,” she added.
“Those who are going to fall under ABAWD requirements are going to be informed of this before July 1 and provided information of the requirements and how to meet those. It will be beneficial if they begin to prepare by exploring their options for meeting the requirements. If someone feels they meet the exemptions, they could gather documentation for that purpose as well,” she said.
If the requirements are not fulfilled, benefits will only be available for three months in a 36-month period.
While recipients do not have to meet with a caseworker each month, Snead said participants must be able to verify hours. hours.
“We must be able to track that. If we are not able to track those hours or the person doesn’t meet the 80-hours requirement they will be off the program,” she said. “They can fax it or drop it off.”
DSS workers are trying to help.
“It is ultimately their responsibility, but we are in the process of gathering information about people who are willing to help. We are trying to help them, possibly Richmond County Community College for training.”
Nationwide, more than one million people will be cut from SNAP this year. North Carolina is one of the 23 states that is reinstating the limit and is considered to be one of the hardest hit by the law.
Snead said the average benefit a person receives is about $250. That figure is based on the average number of cases monthly.
According to USDA more than 40 percent of those receiving benefits are women, one third over the age of 40. Half of them are white, one third of them are African American and a tenth are Hispanic. Many of them do not qualify for other assistance.
Snead added there are several food banks and other organizations in the county that may be able to offer assistance.
Maria D. Grandy can be reached at 910-506-3171.