By Laura Leslie

Raleigh, N.C. — A provision tucked deep within the 362-page Senate budget proposal could mean the end of federal food assistance for tens of thousands of low-income North Carolina households.

Officials at the state Department of Health and Human Services estimate the change would cut food benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to 133,000 people – 55,000 of them under 18.

In 2010, during the depths of the recession, North Carolina expanded its eligibility as permitted under federal law. The state extended coverage to households earning between 133 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level that were also receiving some other public assistance, such as disability payments.

A provision in Senate Bill 257 would roll that expansion back.

Section 11C.11.c on page 142 of the budget bill would ban DHHS from granting “categorical eligibility,” also known as broad-based or extended eligibility, “unless expressly required by federal law.” Federal law covers only individuals who earn less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level and who also receive other assistance.

DHHS Deputy Secretary Susan Perry-Manning explained that the program is funded by the federal government, not the state, so cutting it has no effect on the state budget.

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