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Attorney General Josh Stein Fights to Ease North Carolinians’ Access to Food Assistance

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, September 17, 2020

Contact:
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today urged the Trump administration to waive administrative burdens so that states can expedite the distribution of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. SNAP, commonly known as food stamps, is our country’s most important anti-hunger program and provides people with limited incomes the opportunity to buy nutritious food that they otherwise could not afford.

“Many families are still struggling financially as a result of this pandemic,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “To allow them to go hungry during this time is cruel. I urge the federal government to ease these administrative burdens so that we can make sure North Carolinians can get the food assistance they need during these tough times.”

In March 2020, as states began declaring public health emergencies, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved waiver requests that helped ease regulatory burdens on state SNAP agencies so they could focus their resources on issuing SNAP benefits safely and efficiently. These waivers included allowing virtual interviews with SNAP recipients instead of requiring in-person meetings and providing extensions on reporting deadlines.

However, FNS recently started denying some waiver requests without sufficient explanation and told states that waivers would be approved only on a more limited basis. Without waivers or clear public guidance on the criteria or waiver denials, states cannot process large backlogs of applications and eligibility recertifications in time to prevent families from temporarily losing benefits.

In a letter to the FNS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a coalition of 22 attorneys general is asking the federal government to help states secure long-term waivers by posting clear guidance and criteria for how waivers are approved and increasing the duration and flexibility of waiver options.

Attorney General Stein is joined in sending today’s letter by the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, and the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York.

A copy of the letter is available here.

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