LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -"The states have used waivers in some places where the unemployment rate is 2.5 percent, saying that there are not enough jobs and that’s not reasonable," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Following the Trump administration’s scale back on how SNAP benefits will be administered, Louisiana officials are still unclear how the new guidelines will affect current and future recipients.
“We have about 800,000 Louisianans that receive SNAP and of those about almost 49,000 are what we call A-bods, which is able-bodied adults without dependents," said Sammy Guillory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Family Support for La. Department of Children and Family Services.
The new requirements apply to able-bodied, childless food stamp recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not employed, attending school, enrolled in a job-training program or otherwise exempt from current federal work requirements, and who stay on the SNAP rolls for more than three months.
Guillory said although the new guidelines are clearly laid out, there’s still some more research to be done at the state level before they can determine who all will be affected.
“Louisiana has always had a waiver, the new rules that were finalized last week make it more difficult for states to get waivers of this time limit," Guillory said.
Over the last 20 years, Louisiana’s unemployment rate has seen varied highs and lows. In 2016, the state had an unemployment rate of 6 percent. Fast forward to 2019 and that figure has seen a steady downward trend, now sitting at 4.9 percent. Which according to the president’s guidelines, doesn’t constitute it for the federal waiver that bypasses normal work requirements for the federally funded program.
“Some parishes will still probably qualify for the waiver but not all. It’ll probably be between 10 and 15 parishes that keep the waiver,” Guillory said.
The new rule imposes stricter criteria states must meet in order to issue waivers. Under the plan, states can only issue waivers if a city or county has an unemployment rate of 6% or higher. The waivers will be good for one year and will require the governor to support the request.
We took a look at unemployment rates in Southwest Louisiana and found that on average our area fares quite well in accordance with the newly proposed guidelines.
Source: Louisiana Workforce Commission
Louisiana state lawmakers have recently begun pushing legislation that would give the Legislature the ultimate say whether the state requests a waiver. Hearings on those proposals have been met with questions about the state’s ability to serve people who need job skills training to re-enter the workforce or meet new work requirements.
SNAP benefits for those affected average about $194 dollars a month in Louisiana.
Agency officials say they are still examining the new USDA rules to determine their impact and will reach out directly to anyone who could be affected.
In the meantime, Guillory said the state’s waiver will remain in place until March 31.