Law passes requiring background checks for food stamp applicants - WNCN: News, Weather

Law passes requiring background checks for some public assistance applicants

NEW BERN, N.C. -

A controversial law affecting welfare and food stamp users is in the books.

The state senate joined the state house Wednesday morning in overriding Governor Pat McCrory's veto of House Bill 392.

The bill is now law. As a result, county departments of social services will be required to do background checks on applicants for food stamps and certain welfare programs.

If applicants have felony warrants or they're violating probation or parole, they won't be eligible for those benefits.

"I think it's a good idea because are a lot of people out here on welfare, a lot of people mooching off the government," said New Bern resident Kadija Shockley.

People in the East have mixed reactions about the part of the law that requires work first applicants suspected of abusing drugs to take a drug test. If they fail, they won't be eligible for that welfare program one year after the test.

"It's not cost effective at all. I mean, it's been show in bigger states than ours with more people in it that it is not cost-effective," said New Bern resident Timothy Moore.

Kent Flowers, director of Craven County DSS, is concerned about who pays for this law.

"I don't know how much a criminal record check costs, but if it was $30 a criminal record check, and you're checking 10,000 people, that adds up to a pretty large amount of money," said Flowers.

To make matters worse, DSS has cut staff numbers by 10 percent in the last two years, and the number of people on public assistance has only grown because of the sour economy, said Flowers.

"Just trying to do more work is less people, I have some concerns about that," he said.

The law says work first applicants would have to pay the cost of their drug test and any substance abuse counseling they go through if they fail.

"I don't know how they're going to wind up being able to get those moneys," said Flowers.

Flowers says it's up to the Social Services Commission in Raleigh to work out these thorny issues.

Governor McCrory said Wednesday he will order officials to not take any action to implement drug-testing for welfare recipients until lawmakers provide enough money for the program.

-- Previous story --

Gov. Pat McCrory says he doesn't plan to carry out one bill the legislature enacted despite his veto until better funding is secured for the program.
   
On Wednesday, McCrory announced that he will order officials to not take any action to implement drug-testing for welfare recipients. He said lawmakers have to provide enough money for the program first. The Senate overrode McCrory's veto of the bill earlier in the day.
   
The legislative body also overrode his veto of a bill creating a wider exemption for employers to calculate whether they must participate in the E-Verify program. McCrory promises to take a hard look at the bill to guarantee U.S. immigration laws are followed.
   
He also announced that $10 million had been found to make sure teachers currently getting master's degrees will get higher pay.

--- Previous Story by Andrew Ruiz ---

Lawmakers returned to Raleigh to debate a pair of bills Governor McCrory vetoed this summer. They originally passed them with overwhelming majorities.

Rather than waiting for the House, Senate leaders decided to return Wednesday. Since both bills originated in the House, the House gets to debate them first. House Bill 392 requires drug testing for those who receive certain welfare benefits, while House Bill 786 extends the time someone may work for an employer without being screened by the federal e-verify program.

"There are two issues out there that need to be resolved and in order to resolve them we need to pull the group back together." Representative George Graham, a democrat from district 12 said.

On Tuesday, the House convened at noon only to recess until 4:30 p.m. Both chambers need a three-fifths majority to override McCrory's vetoes. "I voted yes for both bills and will support the over ride of the vetoes." Representative Brian Brown, a Republican from Pitt County said.

In our visit to Raleigh, 9 On Your Side asked leaders from the east if they're happy with the session's outcome.

"You know obviously I was on the other side of several policies that were passed but none-the-less I think we had a good session and there's going to be a lot of good that comes out of it." Graham said.

"We have got to come to grips with Medicaid and straighten that process out before we can ever see the end of the tunnel." Senator Louis Pate said. We also asked about the pressure from organizations like the NAACP do lawmakers feel like their decisions were made with the people's best interest in mind.

 "For me it's not something I really pay attention to. You know the outside influence that can sometimes rain on this particular building is not something we really need to pay attention to. We need to listen to our constituents back home." Brown replied.

On Tuesday, the House voted to override the governor's two vetoes. It now heads to the Senate where a vote is expected at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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