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N.C. counties begin issuing February food stamps next week

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, January 12, 2019

North Carolina counties will begin issuing February food and nutrition benefits next week to avoid complications related to the federal shutdown.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Friday that February’s Food and Nutrition Services benefits, also known as food stamps, will be issued by Jan. 20 at the direction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program. Normally these benefits would be released between Feb. 3-21, according to a DHHS news release.

A provision in the continuing resolution that expired on Dec. 21 provides money for food and nutrition services and child nutrition to fund program operations within 30 days of the resolution’s expiration.

"We are working closely with county departments of social services and our federal partners to ensure participants and retailers have little to no interruption of FNS services due to the shutdown," said Tara Myers, North Carolina’s deputy secretary for human services.

Once February's food and nutrition funds are distributed, they will be available for use.

Recipients must plan accordingly because no benefits will be issued in February.

Pitt County has 13,904 households, composed of 29,361 people, receiving food and nutrition benefits.

A USDA news release said other major nutrition assistance programs have sufficient funding to continue operations into February.

The child nutrition programs, including school meals and after-school programs, have funding available to continue operations through March. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children has prior year funding which USDA will begin to provide states this week to facilitate February benefits.

Other food and nutrition services programs, which provide critical assistance to our nation’s food banks, the elderly, and Tribal nations, may continue to utilize grant funding provided prior to the lapse in appropriations. Commodity deliveries to those programs will continue.

The state is expected to provide county social services departments additional guidance for aiding clients next week, said Jan Elliott, director of Pitt County Department of Social Services.

The state has adequate funding for child care subsidies, DHHS officials told county social services directors on Wednesday during a two-day monthly workshop held on Wednesday and Thursday.

DHHS officials reported the state has adequate money to fund the state’s child care subsidy, which helps eligible families pay for child care, and Work First, which offers short-term financial assistance along with training and other services to help adults secure employment, for several months. Pitt County pays child care subsidies for 1,600 children, said Michele McCorkle, the county’s Family Support Services program administrator. There are another 1,000 children on a wait list, she said.

As of Dec. 31 the county has 239 Work First cases, said Bryan Averette,the county’s Economic Support Services administrator.

Elliott said the Home and Community Care Block Grant, which provides in-home aides and respite services for families caring for older adults along with Adult Day Care and some services provided by Council on Aging, is available through March. The program is aiding 54 Pitt County families in January, according to a spokeswoman. The number changes monthly.

Medicaid is not affected, Elliott said.

“We continue to track closely and will update as more information becomes available,” Elliott said. “We certainly hope for a speedy resolution because of the potential impact to many of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

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