- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Thousands of non-working, childless adults in Louisiana who receive food stamps will have to participate in job training programs to continue getting the assistance, under an executive order issued Thursday by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The Democratic governor is starting the requirement July 1, through career programs offered by the Louisiana Workforce Commission. It comes as Republican state lawmakers have pushed for work requirements for food stamp recipients, which have bumped thousands off food stamps in other states.

“This executive order establishes practical work-related requirements, while recognizing the daily challenges faced by those receiving government assistance and connecting these citizens with the tools to help achieve meaningful employment,” Edwards said in a statement.

For 19 years, Louisiana has had a federal waiver of a requirement that childless adults aged 18 to 49 must work at least 20 hours per week or be enrolled in a job training program to receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.

Edwards got federal approval this year to keep the waiver in place - but said at the time he would couple that with bolstered job training and placement efforts. On Thursday, the governor said he was keeping that pledge.

“I am developing a Louisiana solution that puts Louisiana people and their unique challenges first,” Edwards said. “It treats each individual with dignity in a personalized way that works to address their specific challenges.”

About 47,000 food stamp recipients - who get a maximum of $194 in assistance each month - are estimated to be affected by the new job training requirements, according to the Department of Children and Family Services, which oversees the state’s SNAP program. People who are working or who are in school would be exempt.

The governor’s office said the workforce commission, the family services department and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System will work together to place the food stamp recipients in available job search and skills training programs.

Beginning in July, the non-working, childless food stamp recipients will have to go in person to one of 59 existing state Business and Career Solution Centers for job search assistance and referrals to available adult education programs.

The federal waiver of work requirements will remain in place.

Former Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had the same type of waiver for his two terms, tried to let the waiver expire as he exited office, threatening thousands with the loss of food stamps. But Edwards won federal approval to continue the waiver quickly after taking office.

Republicans have criticized the decision to sidestep the work requirements, saying the assistance program should only be a short-term safety net.

Lawmakers in the majority GOP House have voted for a proposal that would require legislative approval to keep the waiver in place. The bill awaits consideration in the Senate. The Edwards administration has said it has concerns about the proposal.


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