Bill requires background checks for benefits applicants

Posted April 2, 2013

— County Departments of Social Service would be required to conduct criminal background checks on those applying for federal benefits under a bill that cleared the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday.

If someone applying for Food and Nutrition Assistance, what many people call food stamps, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which are cash payments, is found to have an outstanding warrant, social service workers would be required to report them to local law enforcement under House Bill 392.

"Local law enforcement and all county agencies should work together to keep the public as safe as possible," said Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union. He said federal law already prohibits benefits from going to fleeing felons and parole and probation violators.

Under current law, local DSS offices may ask someone if they're a fugitive or conduct a criminal background check, but they are not allowed to share that information with local sheriffs or other law enforcement agencies. Arp said the Union County DSS office got in trouble with the state for sharing information that led to arrests.

"I share your sentiment with regard to cooperation," said Rep. Nathan Baskerville, D-Vance. However, he worried that people who had low-level warrants sworn out against them with little evidence could run into trouble collecting benefits.

"It's a very thin burden for people to get arrest warrants," Baskerville said, adding that someone might swear out a warrant just to be spiteful against someone collecting benefits. "I can see how this would be abused."

Bill backers pointed out that the ability to collect benefits is governed by federal law, which specifies certain types of fugitives. Others with such low-level warrants would merely be reported to the police under the bill.

"It's outrageous, quite honestly, that our current law could be interpreted to say DSS can't talk to law enforcement," said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.

Others worried that the bill does not provide any new money for local DSS offices, some of which may not do background checks now.

"Who is going to pay for the additional records checks," asked Lori Ann Harris, a lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services.

"Are we required to go back and do records checks on all the recipients who have been approved in the past?" she asked, estimating that could require hundreds of thousands of checks.

The measure passed on a voice vote. It next goes to the House floor.


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  • jwstevens04 Apr 11, 2013

    This is a fantastic idea....we have to go through background checks to work, the least they could do is go through one to get part of MY hard earned money.

  • junkmail5 Apr 4, 2013

    No company I know of allows you to have a cell on you while working. Stop living in a utopian society

    I've never, ever, NOT been allowed to have my cell with me, and on, in any job I've ever held.

    And I've had a cell since the late 1990s.

    Regardless of which you ignored the entire point of the post.... that a cell is superior to a land line in every situation you've described.

    It does everything the land line does AND can be portable if you need it to be.

    Hence, again, why the majority of non-senior-citizen americans use them now instead of land lines.

    And why having one, as your only phone, isn't any more a "luxury" than having a land line as your only phone... it's simply more useful.

  • leaannbo19952 Apr 4, 2013

    Once again you didnt read the original post Im in the market for a 2nd job because it is really hard to feed a family of four on 1150 dollars. BTW that is before taxes. yeah Im ahead of others because I work hard and dont sit around waiting for someone to take care of me and mine. I have no problem with programs, but it needs to be over hauled. The working poor needs help also. No company I know of allows you to have a cell on you while working. Stop living in a utopian society

  • pbkhvac Apr 4, 2013

    What, trying to re-name it? It IS called food stamps, or entitlements, or welfare, or votes, if you are a democrat. Call it what it is. Thats about as bad as calling illegal immigrants undocumented democrat voters...:)

  • dejavu2u Apr 4, 2013

    THANK YOU General Assembly - time to clean up this state. Ditto on drug testing for welfare... bring it on.

  • junkmail5 Apr 3, 2013

    How is it the most useful one? Yes I can carry it with me (not that Im allowed to have a phone at work.) what about my family at home? If I have the only phone locked in my car 10 - 12 hours aday how do my children get a hold of me.-leaannbo19952

    Again you fail to make any sense.

    If you already HAVE a job you're likely WAY ahead of most people who are on this program for one...

    And if you can't have the phone AT work (which is kinda weird...) then you'd be leaving your cell phone home with said family, wouldn't you?

    Therefore they HAVE a phone when you are at work- plus you can take it with you when you go someplace in case your car breaks down or some other emergency away from home arises.

    In short- the cell can do all the things the landline can AND you CAN (but don't HAVE to) take it with you.

    It's superior in every way

    That's why MOST americans don't even USE land lines anymore.
    And most of the folks who do are senior citizens

    They're inferior antiques in comparison.

  • leaannbo19952 Apr 3, 2013

    How is it the most useful one? Yes I can carry it with me (not that Im allowed to have a phone at work.) what about my family at home? If I have the only phone locked in my car 10 - 12 hours aday how do my children get a hold of me. With a land line they can call my office manager and get a message to me. Once again what part dont you understand. People leaving their children and families alone without a phone is irresponsiable

  • junkmail5 Apr 3, 2013

    they provided the service since 1986 for land lines not for cells-leaannbo19952

    Yes, that's what I said. They provide _exactly the same_ monthly benefit in fact for land OR cell service.

    Hence your singling out cell service as some luxury is frankly bizarre.

    You get the SAME thing with either service, except the cell phone is infinitely more portable, which makes it infinitely more useful for someone job hunting.

    So if it's your only phone why wouldn't you pick the MORE useful one, which is the cell?

    Having ONE phone line, total, is not a luxury at all, especially if trying to work.

    Which part do you still not understand?

  • leaannbo19952 Apr 3, 2013

    they provided the service since 1986 for land lines not for cells. Cell phones are a luxury not anything more nor anything less. You go out in the morning you apply for jobs (i go to the library because even McDonald's require you to apply by internet)then you go sit by the phone. According yo you I need to take 50 dollars out of an extremely tight budget (1150 gross for a family of four) with no public assistance available and spend it on cell phone service. You make no sense sir.

  • junkmail5 Apr 3, 2013

    Sweetie did you read the rest of my comments? A land line is good enough when job hunting.-leaannbo19952

    No, it's really not.

    If I'm out of the house for 6 hours job hunting that's 6 hours I'm missing calls.

    Since the land line and cell subsidy is _exactly_ the same amount it's frankly insane of you to suggest the one that is LESS useful (the land line) is the way to go.

    Also if the goverment didnt provide the service there would be no need for the cells.- leaannbo19952

    again you fail to make any sense.... they provided this service since 1986... many years before anyone commonly HAD cell phones.

    The only change to the program is you now have a choice of land or cell line. Otherwise it's exactly the same as it has been.

    And as noted, the cell is significantly more useful.

    Given the unemployment rate I'm gonna have tons of applicants for almost any job I offer. If I can't reach you because you're miles away from your antique land line I'm gonna call the next guy.