Louisiana Lawmakers Consider Food Stamp Cuts


Worried that Louisiana is "known as a welfare state," legislators proposed a bill that would give them, and not the governor, the power to decide whether to extend food stamp benefits.

Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996, unemployed, able-bodied adults were limited to three months' worth of food stamps, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That limit was waived in 2009 during the economic downturn, as unemployment rates spiked.

With most of the country recovered from the recession, the waiver has expired, which means states must once again limit able-bodied adults to three months' worth of food stamps unless the states individually apply for new waivers. The federal government granted extensions to individual states and counties that have continued high unemployment rates.

Former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana decided not to apply for a waiver before he left office in early January, according to the The Times-Picayune. The newspaper said it was the first time in 19 years that a Louisiana governor had not applied for a waiver.

Jindal's successor, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, reversed Jindal's decision without input from state lawmakers, The Times-Picayune said.

That prompted the state's House Health and Welfare Committee to draft a new bill that would take the decision out of the governor's hands, and make lawmakers responsible.

"We're a hard-working state and we need to continue to incentivize work," said Republican state Rep. Jay Morris on March 30. "Not getting up in the morning and doing something constructive is just bad for the brain and bad for society."

Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton agreed according to the newspaper, saying Louisiana is "known as a welfare state."

Like most other states, Louisiana has job training programs to allow able-bodied adults who haven't been able to find jobs to keep their benefits.

Matthew Block, executive counsel for Edwards, said the governor was working on an executive order that would develop guidelines for work requirements, The Times-Picayune reported.

More than 500,000 Americans are expected to lose food stamp benefits in 2016, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Sources: The Times-Picayune, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities / Photo credit: Mother Jones

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