Federal work requirements to affect almost 4 percent of Louisiana SNAP recipients; 14 parishes get waiver

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

A new federal rule requiring able-bodied food assistance recipients to find work or face limited benefits will affect less than 4 percent of Louisiana’s recipients, a state agency says.

Starting April 1, the federal government says Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients in Louisiana who are classified as an Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD) can receive benefits for only three months in a 36-month period unless they meet the federal work requirements or qualify for an exemption. Recipients in that category are age 18 to 49, do not have a child living with them, and are considered physically able to work.

Almost 49,000 of Louisiana’s 810,000 SNAP recipients, or about 6 percent, met the ABAWD definition in October, according to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. But this week, the federal government granted a waiver for 14 Louisiana parishes with high unemployment rates: Assumption, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Madison, Morehouse, Richland, St. Landry, St. Mary, Tensas, Vernon, West Carroll and Winn.

With the waiver, and with additional recipients qualifying for federal exemptions, DCFS estimates the number of recipients affected by the federal rule change will be about 31,000, or about 3.8 percent of all recipients.

Because of the federal rule change, Gov. John Bel Edwards rescinded a 2016 executive order that required Louisiana SNAP recipients classified as ABAWDs to register with the Louisiana Workforce Commission and work to find a job.

SNAP recipients who meet the mandatory work criteria still are required to register with LWC for these services. But since the new federal rules have different requirements, Edwards wanted to avoid confusion in the enforcement of state and federal regulations, DCFS says.

The federal government, which pays for SNAP benefits, estimates the rules change will save $5.5 billion over five years.