Local News

N.C. Legislature Disagrees On Accepting $25 Million in Matching Funds

Posted September 29, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Time is running out for several state-run projects to cash in on millions in federal grants.

If lawmakers can't agree on matching funds by midnight Wednesday, we all could pay the price to make up for the lost money.

There are a lot of people caught in the middle, partly because the government fiscal year kicks in at midnight Wednesday, but mainly because of what is happening at theNorth Carolina General Assembly.

The House and Senate cannot agree on whether or not to take $25 million in matching federal funds. Social Services directors are watching what is happening, because it could very easily hit home.

The debate is in the legislature, but the impact is at home. While the kids in a Durham day care take a nap, their parents train for and look for jobs through the Work First program.

The social services director says that if the Legislature does not take the federal funds, 1,100 Durham County kids will be dropped from the day care program.

"The $25 million that the General Assembly is talking about is money targeted to help hard core people become self-sufficient," explained Social Services Director Dan Hudgins. "Without that money, our job is going to be extremely difficult to help those people find work before their benefits run out. Benefits are now temporary. They are not ongoing."

The democratically controlled N.C. Senate wants to take the federal money and move on.

"It is incredible to me that we have a disagreement over whether to accept this money, because it meets the goal that all of us want to reach, and that's getting people off the welfare roles," said Nash County Senator Roy Cooper.

Leaders in the Republican-controlled House say they care about kids, but they also care about protecting the taxpayer.

"We ought to be careful with how we spend anybody's tax money, because I know as a taxpayer, I pay money both to the federal government and to the state government," said Johnston County Representative Leo Daughtry. "We're being careful, and we are negotiating."

Those negotiations picked up at 7 p.m. Wednesday. They have until midnight. Social Services directors say this could eventually impact everyone, because of a trickle-down effect.

If Workfare programs lose money, more people stay on the welfare rolls, and eventually everyone pays more.