The Charlotte Observer reports local nonprofits are bracing for an influx of clients who may lose access to food stamp benefits this spring. Under new rules that took effect Jan. 1, food stamp recipients must prove they’re working, volunteering or in school 20 hours per week.
The federal requirement for work and volunteer hours applies to adults under 50 without children or a disability. In North Carolina, an exemption was created in 2008 during the recession.
The exemption ended Jan. 1 for 23 counties across the state, including several in the Charlotte region: Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Catawba, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln and Union. Statewide, 115,000 people will have to document work, volunteer or education activities by April 1 if they want to keep their benefits.
Nonprofits that offer job training are gearing up to host job fairs, career coaching and information sessions. But local groups that feed the hungry worry they will not be able to meet the increased demand for food.
Beverly Howard, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, said the change could have a substantial impact. “This is a totally unforeseen thing that will definitely stress our budgeted line items for food,” she said.
The ministry supplies a week’s worth of groceries to people in crisis through a network of 20 pantries. But it can only do that once every 45 days, Howard said.
“That’s going to help folks out the first month, and maybe the third month,” she said. “But the months in between, they’re going to have to find some other resources.”
B.R.E.A.D. Inc., a Christian-based food bank in Gastonia that feeds about 1,000 people a month, expects its clientele to grow and volunteer base to expand, said spokeswoman Jill Moore.
About half of the charity’s clientele already receive food stamps but seek extra help. Aside from relying on faith, Moore said the group is unsure how it will bolster its resources to meet any new demand.
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