Last week was a mixed bag for children and youth in terms of activity at the General Assembly. Among accomplishments was further progress on raising the age at which juveniles can be charged as adults in criminal proceedings. North Carolina is the only state where 16- and 17-year-olds are automatically charged as adults.
While advocates for children and youth were cheered by the prospect for change in juvenile jurisdiction, the Council and its allies were discouraged and disheartened by a provision in the state Senate’s budget that would cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) to more than 50,000 children across North Carolina.
As our friends at NC Child explain:
‘Raise the Age’
HB 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, passed the state House by a whopping 104-8 margin! Members of both parties did a fantastic job making the case for ‘raise the age’ during the floor debate and the bill is headed to the Senate with good momentum. Now, the Senate and House will have to work out the differences in the respective ‘raise the age’ policies. HB 280 raises the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16- to 18-years-old for all misdemeanors and low-level felonies, while the Senate budget provision only raises the age for misdemeanors. It’s unclear at this point if the Senate will pass an amended version of HB 280 or if the issue will be worked out as part of the budget negotiations.
SNAP Benefits Cut
The NC Senate budget includes a provision that would cut SNAP benefits for over 50,000 children statewide. Specifically, the budget eliminates ‘categorical eligibility,’ which is how children between 130% and 200% FPL enroll in SNAP. A significant portion of the children who would lose SNAP benefits would also lose their free or reduced school lunch, since eligibility for that program is tied to SNAP enrollment for many children. Click here to read NC Child’s recent issue brief on SNAP and the proposed cuts. Click here to see a county-by-county breakdown of the number of children who would lose food assistance.
We highly recommend contacting your house member and urging them to keep this provision out of their proposed budget.