ADOLPHSEN: NC kids protected by welfare reform

U.S. Department of Agriculture—Flickr

Big government advocates in North Carolina are at it again, employing despicable tactics in their quest to grow government, trap individuals in an endless cycle of dependency, and expand the welfare state.The most egregious aspect of their latest round of attacks? Using children as a shield to cover up massive welfare fraud, waste, and abuse, manipulating the public with false claims that welfare reform will “steal” free and reduced lunches from 50,000 North Carolina children.The reality is that North Carolina’s food stamp eligibility criteria are the most expansive in the nation. While federal law limits eligibility to ensure those with financial resources aren’t stealing from the most vulnerable, North Carolina uses loopholes to allow individuals with unlimited countable assets (bank accounts, cash, and other liquid assets) to qualify. In fact, under the current rules, someone with millions of dollars in the bank can still receive taxpayer-funded benefits.North Carolina uses a similar loophole to expand eligibility to individuals with higher incomes, allowing individuals with incomes four times as high as the eligibility for single mothers receiving cash assistance to qualify.The measure opposed by critics, included in the state Senate’s budget bill, would end these loopholes and restore asset and income limits back to the federal baseline where they belong. It would also implement systematic checks of income, assets, and other factors using advanced technology to identify individuals who no longer qualify, flagging them for removal and ensuring valuable taxpayer resources are preserved for the truly needy.According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 80 percent of those affected by ending the loopholes will be adults and only those individuals with higher incomes and assets than the federal limit. These changes affect just 2 percent of all food stamps benefits provided in North Carolina.But what about all those missing lunches? Nearly 500,000 children on food stamps are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in North Carolina. This bill would affect fewer than 2,800 of them, meaning that 99.4 percent of all children currently eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches would remain eligible for them.The bill takes the protection of children a step further by disqualifying parents who fail to cooperate with child support agencies or owe unpaid court-ordered child support from receiving assistance. While more than 200,000 single-parent families receive food stamps in North Carolina, less than 1 in 4 receive any kind of child support.Child support is critical to lifting families out of poverty and moving them out of dependency. Data shows that when single-parent families on food stamps receive the support they are owed, their incomes increase by more than 50 percent. Based on experiences in other states, this bill would give those families an extra $12 million in child support annually.A recent poll conducted by Opportunity Solutions Project found that 86 percent of North Carolina voters support checking an individual’s financial assets when they apply for welfare to preserve limited resources for the truly needy, 69 percent want to return welfare eligibility back to traditional federal income levels, and 88 percent support checking edibility more frequently with better technology to ensure those receiving taxpayer-funded welfare benefits are actually eligible.Contrary to big government rhetoric, these popular reforms protect children by preserving dollars for the truly needy, like children, the disabled, and the elderly. Critics should be ashamed.Sam Adolphsen is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability. He previously served as chief operating officer at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for three years.