RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Legislation directing the North Carolina lottery to disclose winners of substantial cash prizes to state social services officials as an anti-fraud initiative for food stamps received initial House approval Wednesday.
The chamber voted 75-38 largely along party lines for the bill, which a chief sponsor said would seek to ensure the federal benefits are going to the needy.
The North Carolina Education Lottery would provide names and jackpot amounts of those people winning at least $2,250 to the Division of Social Services, which would then crosscheck the information against food stamp applicants and recipients. The dollar amount is linked to requirements to obtain such federal food benefits.
If the person hadn’t reported the winning to social service workers, the state would have to conduct further review to “determine possible fraudulent misrepresentation.” Winning above that threshold doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll lose the benefit, said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.
“It simply gives the department the information to see if they are still eligible,” Jones said.
A final House vote could come Thursday.
The measure also addresses how long people are disqualified from receiving food stamps when they don’t meet work or training requirements. It took two days of debate and amendments to get to the first vote, as several Democrats complained the bill was about punishing poor people who came into a little extra money.
“We are targeting the least among us, the most vulnerable among us,” said Rep. Nathan Baskerville, D-Vance, during Tuesday’s debate.
The House unanimously approved an amendment Wednesday offered by Jones designed to make clear that family members of the person subject to the work mandate wouldn’t lose benefits.
A successful amendment by Rep. Jane Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, directed state officials to report back to legislators by end of next year about how many times the reporting of lottery winnings resulted in the termination of benefits. But her amendment to raise the reporting threshold to $5,000 was defeated.