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3 NC congressmen question Work First suspension

By Associated Press
Published On: Oct 15 2013 06:35:28 AM CDT
Updated On: Oct 16 2013 06:40:53 AM CDT
RALEIGH, WAKE COUNTY -

Three Democratic congressmen want Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to take a second look at halting North Carolina's welfare-to-work program as the federal shutdown continues.

U.S. Reps. David Price, G.K. Butterfield and Mel Watt wrote Tuesday to McCrory asking him to reverse course on the program, usually paid with federal block funds that weren't reauthorized Oct. 1.

The state said it suspended processing Work First applications Monday because there wasn't enough assurance the federal government would reimburse the state for payments once the shutdown ends.

The letter says 49 other states apparently felt good enough about their chances. A federal official said Tuesday she wasn't aware of another state currently suspending its welfare-to-work program.

The state says people could miss Work First benefits starting in November.

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North Carolina state government has suspended a welfare program for the unemployed because there was no guarantee the federal government would reimburse the state for keeping benefits going until the shutdown ends.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said starting Monday it directed county social service offices to no longer approve Work First applications. Renewing current Work First participants also has been suspended.

Julie Henry with DHHS says current Work First participants already have received October payments, so people could miss benefits if the shutdown extends into November. Henry says the federal government sent a letter to the state saying they could continue making cash payments to Work First enrollees, but repayment was tentative.

Work First served 21,000 people in September and distributed almost $5 million.