By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana paid out $554.1 million in food benefits from March through June, up almost 40 percent from the same four months last year, the state Department of Children and Family Services says.
Officials say applications have returned to a more normal level, though requests could spike again now that enhanced unemployment benefits have run out and federal officials haven’t reached an agreement about the next steps.
The state paid about $398 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits from March through June last year, officials say.
August will be the sixth consecutive month in which the federal government allows Louisiana residents to receive the maximum possible allotment for their family size. Supplements for the first five months cost more than $211 million. The maximum monthly SNAP benefit ranges from $194 for a single person to $1,164 for a family of eight, plus $146 for each additional member.
During the 10 years before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the most SNAP applications DCFS had received in a month was 42,076. The department had more than double that monthly high in both March and April.
On March 31 of this year alone, the department received almost 23,000 applications. During the four days from March 30 to April 2, DCFS received 58,780 applications.
Many applications were rejected because the enhanced unemployment benefit, an additional $600 per week on top of the usual $247 per week maximum in Louisiana, pushed applicants above the income threshold to qualify. Negotiations between Democrats in Congress and the White House over continuing the higher payments, and how large the benefit will be, reportedly were at a stalemate as of Monday afternoon.
In anticipation of increased demand, DCFS obtained a waiver from the federal government to streamline its processes and let analysts focus on new applications. Changes include waiving initial applicant interviews for August, though applicants still must provide documentation to prove eligibility.