North Carolina First to Cut Off Welfare to Thousands of Needy Children and Families Due to Shutdown

North Carolina has become the first state to cut off welfare benefits to the poor amidst the ongoing federal government shutdown. 

This week the state's Department of Health and Human Services told local offices to cease processing applications for November benefits until the federal government shutdown ends, Reuters reported:

“We will be unable to make any Work First Family Assistance payments in November 2013 unless a continuing resolution or compromise on federal funding has been reached by the federal government,” wrote Wayne Black director of the division of Social Services, News Observer reported.

The state’s welfare program called Work First, which is fully funded by the federal government, provides more than 20,000 people in North Carolina with monthly benefits – the majority pertaining to children such as cash benefits, child care and food stamps. 

"We are heavily dependent on federal dollars. When these kinds of things happen at the federal level, it has an immediate impact," said Julie Henry, spokeswoman for the state HHS department.

Other funding programs in the state have also been affected such as the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which includes childcare subsidies that cover more than 70,000 children. 

Left-leaning North Carolina Budget and Tax Centre executive director, Alexandra Sirota said the move amounted to a state of emergency:

“They’re cutting off a lifeline for thousands of North Carolina families who have experienced significant hardship,” she said.

Last week the same state department announced plans to suspend the WIC benefits program, which supply baby formula and supplies to poor women and children.  However, the decision was reversed less than a day later after the state budget director, Art Pope, provided the necessary funds to keep it going.

Critics have said that North Carolina has emergency funds to keep the programs going until federal reimbursement comes, making North Carolina's decision to cut off thousands of needy children and families particularly heartless.

All other states have opted to continue welfare programs so far, using state funds and anticipated federal reimbursement. 

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