LAURINBURG — Beginning today, hundreds of Scotland County food stamp recipients could lose benefits if they are unable to comply with a 1996 welfare law.
Some recipients identified by the county Department of Social Services must be able to provide documentation of either working, volunteering or being enrolled in some type of educational program for 80 hours a month. That includes those between 18-49 years old and able-bodied adults without dependents.
DSS said about 624 residents in Scotland County match that description. And if they do not fulfill the requirement, benefits will be cut off in three months.
April Snead, county DSS director, said staff has been working with recipients since March to help them prepare. Caseworkers are also informing new applicants.
As long as the time is verified by the employer or agency to DSS, the hours can be earned in any county not just Scotland County. Caseworkers will keep track of the hours worked or volunteered. Participants can fax or drop off the documentation.
The average benefit in Scotland County is $250.
The three-month restriction is not new. It was suspended in 2008 by the U. S. Department of Agriculture because unemployment rates in North Carolina skyrocketed.
“We did this years ago,” Snead said.”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.”
The most recent unemployment figures showed that Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate in the state for tMay at 8.6 percent. Those figures were released on Thursday.
DSS has been working with some organizations hoping to get resources for those who will need help.
“I am hoping to put together some type of event at with nonprofits,” said Snead.
She has met with Richmond Community College as well as the state Employment Security Commission.
“Agencies were very receptive to the idea of having volunteers and indicated they would screen volunteers when approached to ensure they met their requirements for volunteering,” said Snead.
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.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 910-506-3171.