North Carolina food stamp users, already at risk of having their eligibility limited, found Tuesday that the Trump administration agrees with the cutbacks.
President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget, unveiled Tuesday, has $190 billion in cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which serves more than 40 million Americans. That includes 1,428,334 people in 674,671 households across North Carolina as of last month, state officials said.
States set the rules for SNAP, and last week, the North Carolina Senate voted to change the current eligibility requirements, which allow people to qualify if they receive other government entitlements such as disability payments, even if their income is higher than the maximum income for food assistance.
That’s virtually identical to what Trump proposed in his budget.
Republican N.C. Sen. Ralph Hise told The News & Observer in Raleigh that the change “closes a loophole that ballooned under the Obama administration allowing people to qualify for food stamps even if they wouldn’t otherwise be eligible because they have valuable assets or savings in the bank.”
“The purpose of the change is to ensure benefits are delivered to those who are truly in need of them,” Hise told The News & Observer.
The combination angered some federal lawmakers Tuesday, who accused the White House and some legislators in Raleigh of meanness.
“There’s a very mean-spirited atmosphere among Republican conservatives now, both in Raleigh and here in Washington, to increase military spending . . . and now delve into entitlements,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “There’s still a perception that people receiving food assistance are trying to game the system, and that’s absolutely not so.”
Some conservative Republicans expressed concern about the cuts. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said, “What bothers me is that too many times some who don’t have as much as the average citizen, who’s looking out for them?”
“Many people do need it,” Jones said of SNAP recipients. “If you’re talking about saving money, where’s the money going? Is it going to pay for tax cuts? That’s not fair, if it’s true.”
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the administration had opted for the 25 percent cut because the number of people receiving food stamps appeared high even though the nation’s economy was recovering.
“Folks who are out there who are on food stamps and want to work, we’ll be able to work with them to solve the problem,” Mulvaney told reporters. “They’re not what’s causing difficulties in SNAP. It’s the folks who are on there who don’t want to work. And that’s what we’re trying to point out to people.”
Mulvaney said it was “reasonable to ask” whether someone who could work needed food stamps.
“I would even suggest to you it’s a reasonable question to ask,” he added.