Tighter Welfare Verification Rules Proposed in North Carolina

Published June 27, 2016

A North Carolina lawmaker is proposing a bill that would require the state Lottery Commission and its welfare entitlement agency to verify lottery winners aren’t also collecting government benefits, such as food stamps.

House Bill 1047, sponsored by state Rep. Bert Jones (R-Rockingham), proposes requiring the North Carolina Lottery Commission to report to the Department of Health and Human Services and Division of Social Services when recipients of food and nutrition benefits win lottery prizes exceeding $2,250.

HB 1047 was approved by the North Carolina House of Representatives in June and is currently under consideration by the state Senate.

Help for the Truly Needy

Jones says researching solutions to entitlement reform inspired him and his colleagues to do something about fixing a broken system that was failing the “truly needy” in his state.

“We had been studying the issue of welfare waste, fraud, and abuse, in which precious, limited resources are wrongly allocated that should be preserved for the truly needy,” Jones said. “As good stewards, we must address waste, fraud, and abuse wherever we can find it.”

‘Couple of Good Things’

Mitch Kokai, director of communications for the John Locke Foundation, says the bill contains several positive elements.

“I think that the bill has a couple of good things going for it,” Kokai said. “One is that you want to ensure that, to the extent that the government is going to be providing benefits to people who have a need to have some sort of supplement because they are low-income, that you aren’t providing benefits to people who have just won a big lottery prize. To the extent that you eliminate from the ranks of those who are getting benefits people who have just won a big lottery prize, that makes sure that the money is going to people who have the most need to get it.”

Encouraging Responsibility

Kokai says the bill could discourage individuals with limited amounts of disposable spending from succumbing to government lottery advertising campaigns.

“I think there is also a secondary piece of this that turns out to be beneficial, and that is that it discourages people who are on food stamps from playing the lottery,” Kokai said. “Anyone who has looked at lotteries across the country [has noticed] the people who end up playing them, more often than not, are those who have the least amount of resources available to do something like this.”

Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.