Wake County man may lose food stamp benefits as he works to get back on his feet

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Corey Hazel is a 45-year-old man trying to get back on his feet in Wake County.

He is one of more than 77,000 people in the county getting SNAP benefits from the county’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), better known as food stamps.

Hazel has worked a number of jobs, including a temporary one as a traffic controller, most recently at a motorcycle festival in downtown Raleigh.

“It does get a little overwhelming. It gets a little stressful sometimes you know, but I press forward,” he said when talking about trying to get out from under the hardships he’s experienced in his life.

Hazel is also one of about 5,000 people who are at risk of losing those food stamp benefits.

After the 2008 recession, some states, like North Carolina, received a federal waiver allowing anyone who qualified for food stamps to receive them.

Earlier this year, North Carolina lawmakers decided not to renew the waiver, which means that any able-bodied person, like Hazel, now has to work, attend classes, or volunteer for 20 hours a week. Otherwise, after a three month period, the benefits are cut.

“Some people who just don’t succeed with those with those requirements,” said Antonia Pedroza, director of Wake County’s economic services. “They just fall in the cracks and so that’s real and that happens.”

Since August, CBS North Carolina’s Beairshelle Edmé has followed Hazel as he prepares to hit his deadline.

At the NCWorks Career Center, he works with counselors to plan his next move.

“We would offer them service. And so those services might look like how to fill out a resume, how to look for a job, job placement,” Pedroza explained.

It’s a step towards no longer needing benefits.

“It’s not a perfect system, but it’s one that we’re consistently working at,” Pedroza admitted.

In the meantime, Hazel is also studying for his GED test and attending classes and tutoring sessions at Neighbor to Neighbor, a local nonprofit organization.

“Education right now for me it’s a — it’s a no-brainer for me,” Hazel said.

A challenge he still faces is being a convicted felon. With a college education, he hopes to change the odds and prevent young men from following his path.

While the waiver program is coming to an end in North Carolina, Hazel’s pursuit of a better future is not.

Asked what he needed to be self-sufficient, Hazel answered, “A better job…making sure that once this is cut loose, I never have to look back this way again.”

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