BATON ROUGE; This week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the final version of a rule which would greatly restrict state authority to waive time limits on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in areas with high rates of unemployment.
Since 1996, Louisiana has utilized these waivers statewide or regionally to allow low-income 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 who struggle with hunger at risk of losing critical food assistance.
Presently, strict time limits to receive SNAP benefits are in place for many adults without dependents. 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.
There is ample evidence that cutting off SNAP benefits to people already struggling to find steady, well-paid jobs does not help them find jobs any more quickly, but rather pushes them farther into poverty. 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 in Louisiana.
“SNAP is an effective program for helping low-income individuals and families to purchase nutritious foods,” said Korey Patty, Executive Director of Feeding Louisiana. “The increased work requirements published in the USDA’s final rule do not change the realities of the job landscape for thousands of low-income Louisianans struggling to put food on the table. While significant barriers to stable employment continue to exist for people living in poverty, this rule does not address these longstanding issues and will have the effect of pushing these individuals deeper into food insecurity.”
Additionally, the USDA’s final rule changes how states will calculate and report unemployment rates going forward, greatly limiting the ability of states to respond quickly to economic changes. While many of Louisiana’s major industries, such as agriculture and oil & gas, are subject to sudden upturns and downturns, this new rule will not prevent the state from being able to respond to sharp increases in unemployment due to a recession, disaster, or other local economic event.
The Feeding Louisiana network will continue to work around the clock to serve the more than 770,000 Louisianans facing hunger with the vital assistance of the SNAP program. Feeding America, estimates that for every meal provided by the emergency food network, SNAP provides 9; the loss SNAP benefits for an estimated 50,000 Louisianans would be a crisis in our state. Feeding Louisiana opposes this rule which undermines, not strengthens, the intention of the program: to help Americans keep food on the table during hard times.
The change is set to take effect on April 1, 2020.
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.
Media Inquiries: Please contact Korey Patty at firstname.lastname@example.org