Exclusionary SNAP restrictions hinder Lamar’s success

Oct 26, 2022   |  By Quiana Brifu

As the cost of living has risen dramatically around the nation, North Carolina resident Lamar thought he found a solution to help make ends meet: food assistance.

Lamar has a job with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) at our Charlotte office and is happy to have a steady income post-incarceration. However, with inflation and increasing costs, it’s still a challenge to save money and reach his goal of financial stability.

“It’s impossible for me to save, pay bills, and feed my family at this phase of my life,” Lamar says.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the SNAP Employment and Training program are federal programs that can provide returning citizens with food security, paid training, and wrap-around support.

But when Lamar applied for the SNAP benefits that help so many others like him, he was immediately denied.

As Lamar learned, there is a federal law that places a lifetime ban on eligibility for SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for people with prior drug felonies. Though states have the opportunity to modify or waive the ban, these restrictions remain in many places across the country. North Carolina is one of the states that continues to ban most individuals with a drug conviction from receiving SNAP benefits.

Not only does this hurt individuals like Lamar, but it also hurts communities. According to a 2017 evidence-based Harvard Law School study, access to SNAP benefits reduces the risk of reincarceration within a year by 10%.

As Lamar says, “When someone doesn't have to worry about how they will afford their next meal, it makes the world safer.”

For now, Lamar is relying on help from family, but he knows that can only go on for so long. He also wants to contribute to his household.

“My mother has things to fix in her home and bills to pay, and I’d like to support her because I stay with her,” Lamar says.

Repealing the lifetime ban on SNAP for individuals with drug convictions is a simple and effective way to help more individuals like Lamar succeed post-incarceration.


CEO and our participants advocate for the removal of barriers to employment, including ensuring individuals have access to SNAP and SNAP Employment & Training during training. To learn more about CEO’s policy advocacy, visit https://ceoworks.org/policy-advocacy.