Politics

31,000 To Lose Food Stamp Benefits In Louisiana, State With Fifth Highest Unemployment Rate, On New Year's

| by Sheena Vasani
Supermarket Aisle.Supermarket Aisle.

More than 31,000 Louisianans could lose their food stamp benefits on Jan. 1 as a result of access to the benefit becoming contingent upon meeting work requirements.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal reinstated work requirements to qualify for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Louisiana, reports Al Jazeera America.

Since the Great Recession, states with high unemployment allowed individuals to apply for federal waivers permitting individuals to receive benefits regardless of their employment status.

Now some states, including Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, have decided not to renew these waivers.

Jindal and other government officials explain now that the economy is better, they want to motivate SNAP recipients back to work.

“The best way to break the cycle of poverty is for individuals to get a job and get off of government assistance,” Jindal spokesman Mike Reed said, reports The New Orleans Advocate.

Many disagree with these statements, with some saying the data they refer to is misleading while their comments perpetuate false stereotypes.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports as of November, Louisiana’s unemployment rate was the fifth highest in the country, with unemployment still on the rise.

“Many people who want to work still cannot find jobs, while others who want to work full time can find only part-time employment,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes. “Cutting off food assistance to poor unemployed and underemployed workers doesn’t enable them to find employment or secure more hours of work.”

More concerning, the center says those affected with be the poorest of the poor who generally have  “limited education and skills and limited job prospects” and “struggle to find employment even in normal economic times.”

“The idea that anybody is choosing not to work because of $190 a month in food stamps -- that’s really kind of a stereotype," Steve Spires, a senior policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project, told Al Jazeera America.

Joanika Davis, who is set to lose $200 a month to help her get by during a tough job search, wondered, “Why should I have to fight for food right now? Why should I have to fight to drink water?"

Democratic Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards is trying to block the change before he takes office on Jan. 11, without an interruption in benefits for those on the program, reports The New Orleans Advocate.

Sources: Al Jazeera America, The New Orleans Advocate, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities / Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons