A bill under consideration in the North Carolina Senate would ban work requirement exemptions for able-bodied adults without children who are receiving food stamps.

House Bill 747, No Work Requirement Exemption/FNS Benefits, passed the House 113-3 in early May. The bill was debated in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday.

Currently in North Carolina, recipients of food stamps — also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — must register and then participate in employment training if the state assigns that individual to do so. 

Under H.B. 747, qualifying recipents would be required to attend the training or seek employment. The bill contains exceptions for certain categories of individuals, including parents, students enrolled in school, and those enrolled in a drug or alcoholic rehabilitation program.

 “The key with this is that not only are work requirements federal law, but work requirements are one of the most effective tools to lift people out of poverty,” said Rep. Kristin Baker, R-Cabarrus, the measure’s primary sponsor. “So we as a state need to help people who have signed up to go ahead and find that employment and training, for their mental health benefits, for their productivity, and their abilities to be independent and take care of themselves and their families.”

Baker said that nine other states have enacted similar requirements. She pointed to studies in multiple states showing that able-bodied adults leave SNAP by finding work and their incomes have tripled by doing so.

“These people are struggling,” said Baker. “They are not able to find work. We’ve got 350,000 people that are on SNAP. We’ve got tons of jobs that are open, but we are not connecting those jobs and those people to allow them to get in a position of independence and productivity.”

Several Democrats raised concerns about the bill during the committee meeting. Sen. Sydney Batch, D-Wake, asked if Baker would be willing to scale down the bill to create a pilot program in several rural and urban areas, prior to statewide implementation.

“Your suggestion is a good one,” Baker responded.