BATON ROUGE; February 13, 2019
On February 2, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a rule for public comment which would restrict the state’s ability to waive time limits on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) benefits in areas with significant unemployment. Statewide, Louisiana has utilized these waivers since 1996
to allow able-bodied adults who are unable to meet the 20-hour-a-week work requirement to receive SNAP benefits. Under the proposed rule, the large majority of parishes would no longer be eligible for this waiver, leaving thousands of Louisianans struggling with hunger at risk of losing critical food assistance.
Presently, adults ages 18 to 50 who do not receive disability benefits and do not have any dependents, also known as ABAWDs (Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents), face strict time limits to receive SNAP benefits. These adults can only receive benefits for 3 months over the course of a three-year period unless they are working at least 20 hours a week or participating in a comparable, certified, employment and training program.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, over 70% of the SNAP recipients who fall into the ABAWD category earn less than $6,500 a year, classifying them as a high need population at significant risk of food insecurity. Barriers to transportation, educational attainment, and the availability of full-time jobs, particularly in rural areas, present serious challenges for individuals working to meet these restrictions.
Nationally, SNAP represents the country’s most robust tool in the fight against hunger. Helping more than 800,000 low-income Louisianans to put food on their tables every month, the assistance provided to food-insecure Louisiana citizens by SNAP cannot be replicated by the not-for-profit sector. Feeding America estimates that for every one meal provided by a food bank, SNAP provides 12; eliminating this resource for the state’s highest need individuals would place significant stress on the Feeding Louisiana network and its ability to meet the need across the state.
“SNAP is a critical resource for some of Louisiana’s most vulnerable citizens, many of whom live well below the poverty line. At the same time, our working poor often face volatile job schedules with insufficient work hours and insufficient pay. The USDA’s harsh proposal jeopardizes vital food assistance for many of these Louisianans, who might be one illness or accident away from losing SNAP eligibility under this proposal. We encourage the Administration to rescind this harmful rule.” said Feeding Louisiana’s Executive Director, Korey Patty.
It is imperative that the USDA and the Trump Administration understand the severe effects this proposed rule change would have on the health and well-being of Louisiana communities. Feeding Louisiana implores the Administration to rescind this rule, and we encourage the public to speak out by submitting a comment in opposition to the proposal here; the comment period will close on April 2, 2019.
Feeding Louisiana provides a unified voice for Louisiana's hungry by providing short-term food relief while seeking long-term solutions to hunger through advocacy, education, and leadership. Feeding Louisiana is made up of the five Feeding America member food banks in Louisiana, serving all 64 parishes through a network of more than 900 community and faith-based organizations.