Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's bid to reduce dependency on food stamps in Louisiana amounts to a "starvation plan," critics reportedly said during a Nov. 10 protest outside a New Orleans social services building.
Under the 1996 welfare reform act, able-bodied adults were required to find employment -- or spend at least 20 hours a week in job search programs -- if they wanted to keep their food stamp benefits, the Times-Picayune reports. That changed in 2012, when the Obama administration allowed states to waive the work requirement, citing the effects of the recession and high unemployment rates.
But in late October, Jindal declined to renew the waiver for Louisiana, which means able-bodied adults among the state's 868,000 food stamp recipients must find jobs or lose their food stamp benefits. The move is aimed at reducing government dependency in Louisiana, where 18.7 percent of the state's population receives food stamps, statistics from the Department of Agriculture show.
More than 60,000 people in the state could lose food stamp benefits when the waiver officially expires in January.
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Among them are adults who have jobs but don't work enough hours to qualify for food stamps. Don Everard, director of the transitional program Hope House in New Orleans, told the Times-Picayune that one woman in his program earns $9 an hour at a department store, where she's limited to 15 hours a week. Come January, she'll lose her food stamp benefits.
"It's insane," Everard added.
Members of Stand With Dignity, a New Orleans-based community group, were among the protesters who showed up to the Nov. 10 rally. They also filed an administrative complaint on the same day, according to a New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice press release. The complaint calls for the state's immediate application for a waiver of work requirements, as well as an investigation and review of policies regarding the work requirement law.
“We are taking a stand...because the cost of food is too high, and there are not enough jobs for everyone to get work,” Freddie Washington said in a Stand With Dignity statement. “Gov. Jindal’s decision will take food out of my mouth and my children’s mouths."
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Washington added that there aren't enough jobs that pay enough for the poor to break dependency on government assistance.
Suzy Sonnier, secretary of the state's Department of Children and Family Services, said the program will help people find jobs.
"Engaging in work activities is a key step in that transition," she told the Times-Picayune. "We are striving to reduce reliance on public benefits, increase the number of clients participating in education or workforce activities and connect Louisiana employers with ready and willing to work job candidates."