2016-06-11 / Front Page

Hundreds of Personians could lose food stamp benefits

By GREY PENTECOST
Courier-Times staff writer

As many as 800 Person County residents could potentially lose their Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) benefits this year if they don’t meet federal work requirements or qualify for an exemption.

According to Erica Bryant, income maintenance administrator with the Person County Department of Social Services (DSS), the requirements are part of a rule that has been law since 1996. However, the rule has not been enforced since 2008, when a nationwide waiver was granted due to the economic recession. North Carolina no longer qualifies for the waiver, and Person County must enforce the requirements beginning July 1.

The rule, called ABAWD (Able-Bodied Adult without Dependents), dictates that adults who are aged 18- 49, are able to work and do not have a child or children under age 18 included in their FNS (formerly Food Stamps) benefits can only get FNS benefits for three months during the next three years unless they are exempt from the rule or meet certain work requirements.

Those who do not qualify for one of the exemptions must work 20 hours per week, or 80 hours per month, in order to continue receiving FNS benefits.

Bryant said DSS would be working to help those subjected to the rule find employment through efforts such as referring clients to Piedmont Community College’s Workforce Development Center. She said lack of transportation would be one of the prima- ry barriers clients would face in meeting the work requirements.

Bryant has also alerted the Christian Help Center (CHC) to the changes, as she expects the requirements will result in many more families needing the center’s services.

“We are already serving close to 1,500 families a month, and this type of increase is hard to absorb,” CHC Director Cynthia Wilson told The Courier-Times in an email this week. “We will need more dollars for food and more organizations holding food drives.”

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