- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2020

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - As many as 31,000 of Louisiana’s food stamp recipients could lose their benefits under a new Trump administration rule starting April 1 that enacts stricter work requirements on childless adults, according to estimates released Wednesday by the state social services agency.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services will be contacting the affected people who get food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, with information about how they can keep getting assistance.

“We want to help SNAP recipients understand whether this rule applies to them and what they need to do to keep their benefits,” Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters said in a statement. “We also want to help direct them to the many career and educational opportunities that currently exist and are in development.”

Food stamp recipients in 14 parishes - largely in northeast Louisiana - will not be affected by the Trump administration changes: Assumption, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Madison, Morehouse, Richland, St. Landry, St. Mary, Tensas, Vernon, West Carroll and Winn parishes. Louisiana received a waiver from the federal government for those parishes, because they have had unemployment rates significantly higher than the national average.

But nearly 4% of the state’s 810,000 food stamp recipients are estimated to fall under the new restrictions issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which take effect in April and cover people who are ages 18 to 49 and do not have a child living with them.



The new rule will limit those work-eligible adults to three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period unless they are working, volunteering or participating in a job training program for at least 80 hours a month. Exceptions are allowed for people with dependents, people who have a disability, students, pregnant women and certain other criteria.

The state Department of Children and Family Services said it will mail notices and fact sheets later this month to food stamp recipients who fall under the provisions of the federal work requirements. The information will include details of how people can meet the requirements, who qualifies for an exemption and how to keep receiving food aid.

The food stamp changes are the Trump administration’s latest attempt to scale back social safety net programs. The USDA estimates the new rule will save about $5.5 billion over five years by cutting benefits for hundreds of thousands of people. The rule imposes stricter criteria states must meet in order to issue waivers.

Attorneys general in nearly 20 other states have sued. They are attempting to block the rule, saying it could lead to increased homelessness and health problems.

Louisiana’s waiver for the 14 parishes will last one year, through March 31, 2021. The state could seek waivers for additional parishes later if they reach the federal requirement of having an unemployment rate of 6% or higher and meet other high unemployment benchmarks.

Because of the federal changes, Gov. John Bel Edwards is rescinding a 2016 executive order that enacted some job training requirements for non-working, childless adults in Louisiana who receive food stamps. The federal rule is stricter than those requirements.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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