U.S. Rep. David Price says he has gotten no response from Gov. Pat McCrory on why North Carolina was the only state to announce it would end aid to low-income families, pregnant women and infants during the recent federal government shut down.
The Democrat from Chapel Hill said at a luncheon in Raleigh on Friday that the state's Republican administration appeared too eager to cut off help to poor families during the crisis.
Price suggested that North Carolina being alone among the 50 states in announcing it would end federal welfare-to-work assistance and food aid is a sign there is something "really wrong" with McCrory's administration. He and two other Democratic congressmen from North Carolina, Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte and Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson, sent an Oct. 15 letter questioning the decisions and asking McCrory to reverse course.
"I think it is a very troubling episode," Price said, speaking to a group of reporters. "Seems like they were almost too eager to cut off these benefits. That's the way it looked. If we were one out of 20 or 30 states, that would be different. But when you are one out of 50, that's pretty surely a sign of being an outlier."
Asked for response to Price's comments, McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said: "We appreciate Rep. Price getting in touch with us and we are glad that the federal shutdown is over."
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this month it was halting the supplemental food voucher program helping 264,000 low-income mothers and their young children due to the shutdown. But the agency announced two days later the program would resume issuing benefits because officials had located money to operate it through the end of October.
The state then announced it would stop accepting Work First applications and told counties they'd have to make do with fewer child care subsidy dollars because money wasn't authorized by Congress after Sept. 30. More than 20,700 North Carolinians received Work First services last month.
North Carolina was the only state not to extend services with state dollars and wait for reimbursement from the federal government. DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz said earlier this week state that officials weren't persuaded North Carolina could count on that payback.
"There were pretty Republican and pretty conservative states that found this good enough and North Carolina is the only one out of 50 that did not," Price said Friday. "That's a pretty good tip off that there's something really wrong here."
Congressional legislation that passed Wednesday night to end the shutdown directed reimbursement to the states for federal programs that continued during the shutdown.
Price said had the shutdown not ended, he and the other North Carolina Democrats were poised to use their Congressional authority to demand answers from the state.
"We could have taken it much further, and would have, had the shutdown not ended," he said.