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59K Could Soon Lose Food Stamps In North Carolina

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North Carolina food stamp recipients in 23 counties have just three months to find a job as state officials reinstated work requirements Friday in those areas.

The decision puts 59,000 residents at risk of losing their food stamp benefits. Work requirements have been critical components to the food stamp program since 1996, later waived in many states following the recession in ’08. The improved economy has prompted some states to reinstate the requirements.

North Carolina is unique in that the entire state is not reinstating the requirements all at once. Only 23 of 100 counties reinstated their requirements Jan. 1, reports WRAL. The requirements mean able-bodied adults without children must work at least 20 hours a week or be enrolled in a federally approved jobs training program.

State lawmakers chose the counties based on their recovering unemployment rates. Lawmakers passed a measure in the fall that bans the Department of Health and Human Services from requesting a waiver renewal. The move means the other 77 counties will reinstate their requirements by July 1, The Associated Press reports. Recipients can only stay on food stamps for three months at a time once the work requirements are in place.

The counties will be along other states like Louisiana and Wisconsin which also have let their waivers expire. New Jersey is also considering letting its waiver end as well.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The improved economy has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. Since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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