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Another N.C. threat to program for poor

Why does North Carolina seem as if it’s looking for ways to get out of helping the poor?

Last Tuesday, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced that due to the federal shutdown, it was halting benefits for the WIC program, which helps pregnant women and new mothers buy healthy food and formula for their children.

It turned out that North Carolina was the only state in the country to stop those benefits, and after media started asking why Thursday, DHHS secretary Aldona Wos promptly announced she’d found money to keep the program going. It helped that the feds had been offering contingency WIC money to states all along.

Also last week, however, social service agencies across the state learned from DHHS that funding had run out for North Carolina’s Work First program. Work First provides welfare money, Medicaid coverage and work training with funds from the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.

Counties were told that while current enrollees in the Work First program would receive their monthly checks for about $200 in October, that money would not be distributed if the shutdown continued into November. Also, new applications for Work First benefits would not be processed until the shutdown ended.

North Carolina is one of only a few states to announce that TANF benefits would stop in November, said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, a senior policy analyst for the Washington-based advocacy agency CLASP. A handful of other states have suggested that assistance programs in general could be threatened if the shutdown continued that long,

North Carolina, however, is the only state Lower-Basch has found that’s stopped processing TANF applications. That’s problematic, she said, because the longer the shutdown continues, the longer those applicants will see critical benefits delayed.

All of which is unnecessary. Last month, the U.S. Health and Human Services Family Assistance Office wrote a pre-shutdown letter to states, promising to reimburse money states had to spend to cover federal TANF benefits. That’s probably why so few states have yet to talk about shutting down their TANF programs.

North Carolina, however, seems comparatively eager to do so. We hope it doesn’t come to that, but if the shutdown continues into November, Wos and DHHS should reconsider the decision to stop TANF assistance that the feds would eventually reimburse. For now, DHHS should continue to process Work First applications, as other states are doing, so that low-income North Carolinians don’t have an unnecessary wait for money their families need.

The secretive Obama

Is President Obama Nixonian? In at least one way, probably so.

Obama said during his first campaign that he would run the most transparent administration in history. It has been anything but.

A new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists says Obama presides over one of the most secretive administrations in memory.

“The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration,” said report author Leonard Downie. He should know: He was the Washington Post’s top editor and was an editor there during the Watergate scandal.

Obama critics accuse the press of being his lapdog. In fact, they can’t stand how he operates.

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