Bill requires NC welfare, food stamp crime checks - WNCN: News, Weather

Bill requires NC welfare, food stamp crime checks

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Some North Carolina legislators agreed Tuesday to require county social service workers to perform criminal background checks on people seeking welfare and food stamps, but the legislation provides no money to pay for the reviews.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted to make the checks mandatory in all county Department of Social Services offices for people applying for the benefits or for renewing their application to keep receiving them. The DSS office also would have to tell law enforcement agencies if an applicant is a fugitive or is wanted on an outstanding warrant.

DSS offices can now perform the formal background checks if they wish, or they can simply ask the participant if he or she is in trouble with the law. Federal law prohibits people who are subject to arrest warrants for violating probation or parole or for a felony charge from receiving public assistance benefits.

Food and Nutrition Services, the formal term for food stamps, provides debit cards to low-income families. Work First — North Carolina's welfare program, which is paid through the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families — provides cash assistance and job training.

"We absolutely have to make sure our aid goes to law-abiding citizens first," said state Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, one of the bill's primary sponsors. "This is a reasonable provision to ensure that."

In Union County, Arp said, officials at the county DSS office were told they could no longer provide criminal information to sheriff's deputies because of confidentiality restrictions.

"It's outrageous to think that our current law could even be interpreted to say that DSS cannot notify law enforcement," said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.

But some speakers at the committee meeting questioned who would pay for the criminal background checks and whether the legislation would require all current recipients to be scrutinized. There were nearly 822,000 people benefiting from food stamps in North Carolina during February while the Work First caseload was about 21,400 in March, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

"Right now, the county (DSS offices) are just strapped. We can't afford another unfunded mandate," said Lori Ann Harris, a lobbyist representing the North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services. Harris said she received information that criminal history checks cost $38 apiece.

Social service workers also would feel worried about turning in personal information — including Social Security numbers and physical descriptions — about applicants who came to their offices for help but were in trouble with the law, Harris said.

"If people think they're going to be punished or arrested for even coming to seek our services, then that's a big concern for us," she said. "We look to be friendly, not adversarial."

Julie Henry, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday evening in an email that agency officials were looking at the issue addressed in the bill and gathering information from the federal government.

Arp said a fiscal review of the measure by the General Assembly's research staff said the bill's cost to local governments is unclear. He said the situation will create a safer environment because officials will know who is coming through their doors.

Rep. Nathan Baskerville, D-Vance, told Arp he's worried someone could harm a person's qualifications to receive benefits simply by going to a magistrate's office and taking out a warrant against them even though the allegations are a paper tiger.

"It's a very thin burden that has to be presented for folks to get arrest warrants," Baskerville said. While Arp acknowledged criminal warrants can be abused, he said it's "no reason not to do the right thing."

The applicant with outstanding warrants can still qualify for benefits once they are no longer subject to arrest. Benefit eligibility by other people in the applicant's household wouldn't be affected by the applicant's criminal status, the bill says.

  • PoliticsMore>>

  • NC flags lowered on day of Fulghum service

    NC flags lowered on day of Fulghum service

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 5:11 AM EDT2014-07-23 09:11:02 GMT
    A first-term North Carolina legislator who died last weekend will be formally remembered within state government and at the church he attended for decades.
    A first-term North Carolina legislator who died last weekend will be formally remembered within state government and at the church he attended for decades.
  • NC counties see sales tax changes in Senate bill

    NC counties see sales tax changes in Senate bill

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 10:46 PM EDT2014-07-23 02:46:55 GMT
    File PhotoFile Photo
    Four large North Carolina counties would see their authority to raise sales taxes scaled back in Senate legislation that its Republican supporters say would level the playing field across the state in generating revenue.
    Four large North Carolina counties would see their authority to raise sales taxes scaled back in Senate legislation that its Republican supporters say would level the playing field across the state in generating revenue.
  • State: Ex-Tarboro town manager used funds inappropriately

    State: Ex-Tarboro town manager used funds inappropriately

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:10 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:10:06 GMT

    The state auditor’s report determined that the former town manager “made nearly $366,000 of purchases" that were inappropriate.

    The state auditor’s report determined that the former town manager “made nearly $366,000 of purchases" that were inappropriate.

  • Trending StoriesTrending StoriesMore>>

  • Couple arrested for having sex on Cortez Beach in front of beachgoers

    Couple arrested for having sex on Cortez Beach in front of beachgoers

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 1:08 PM EDT2014-07-22 17:08:35 GMT
    Bradenton Beach police officers were dispatched to Cortez Beach after a few people called 911 and complained about a couple having sex publicly, right next to a little girl on the beach.
    Bradenton Beach police officers were dispatched to Cortez Beach after a few people called 911 and complained about a couple having sex publicly, right next to a little girl on the beach.
  • Largest companies by revenue in each state

    Largest companies by revenue in each state

    Thursday, July 10 2014 8:01 PM EDT2014-07-11 00:01:10 GMT
    Broadview Networks recently decided to find out the biggest -- by revenue -- company in each state in the US.The company used the Fortune 500 list to start with, but needed data by state, so it turned to Hoover's.With data from that company, they were able to search through each state's list of companies and then find the largest -- by revenue.Just flip through the list above and see who is the biggest in each state, what town they are based and their revenue.
    Broadview Networks recently decided to find out the biggest -- by revenue -- company in each state in the US.The company used the Fortune 500 list to start with, but needed data by state, so it turned to Hoover's.With data from that company, they were able to search through each state's list of companies and then find the largest -- by revenue.Just flip through the list above and see who is the biggest in each state, what town they are based and their revenue.
  • Houston school district holds 2nd job fair in Raleigh

    Houston school district holds 2nd job fair in Raleigh

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:27 AM EDT2014-07-23 10:27:25 GMT
    File photoFile photo
    A Texas school district is once again holding a job fair for teachers in Raleigh.
    A Texas school district is once again holding a job fair for teachers in Raleigh.
Powered by WorldNow

1205 Front St., Raleigh
N.C., 27609

Telephone: 919.836.1717
Fax: 919.836.1687
Email: newstips@wncn.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.