North Carolina is the first state to cut welfare because of the government shutdown. The state ordered a halt to processing applications for November until a deal is reached to end the shutdown.
Welfare benefits poor residents in the state, and more than 20,000 people, most of them children, receive a monthly stipend from the state to help them buy food and other basic necessities.
North Carolina’s welfare program, called Work First, is fully funded by the federal government, reports Reuters. Under the program, recipients must reapply each month in order to receive aid.
Welfare isn’t the only program the state will suspend either. Other programs funded through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant will also lose funding. The list of people affected includes childcare subsidies that cover over 70,000 children. In some areas, those subsidies have already ceased being distributed.
Yahoo! News notes that the Office of the Administration for Children, which oversees TANF, urged states to continue funding the program, explaining that the states will be reimbursed unless Congress says otherwise.
Critics of North Carolina’s decision to cut welfare say the state has $650 million for emergency use in a “rainy day fund.” They contend that the state could pay for the programs if it wanted, but not doing so is more for the sake of politics than finances. Alex Sirota, director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, which advocates for those less fortunate, explained, “I would say this is an emergency.”
Sirota added, “They’re cutting off a lifeline for thousands of North Carolina families who have experienced significant hardships.” The same state department moved last week to cut WIC benefits, which supply baby formula and other stables to poor women with young children. However, the state budged director intervened a day later to provide funds for the program.
Workers for the department have been told to continue accepting welfare applications, but not to process them until the government shutdown ends.
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