Here is a press statement from the Edwards transition team.
Governor-elect John Bel Edwards today asked both the federal government and the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to avoid any unnecessary interruption of Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits onJanuary 1, 2016 for low-income able-bodied single adults, even if they have not yet been able to find work. The decision will affect approximately 31,000 low-income adults who stand to lose $194 a month in electronic food assistance startingJanuary 1, due to Governor Bobby Jindal’s decision not to request a federal waiver in October.
“I will take the next year to work with DCFS and the Louisiana legislature to develop programs that offer workforce training and assistance to those on SNAP benefits,” said Governor-electEdwards. Edwards’ Transition Committee on Children and Family Services urged the incoming governor that the waiver request was an important step for some of the poorest adults in our state who face significant barriers to employment.
The group affected by Governor-electEdwards’ request are low-income adults who are single, between the ages of 18 and 49, not pregnant, physically or mentally disabled, and who do not care for children 18 or younger in their home. The SNAP program sometimes refers to this group as “ABAWDs” – or “Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents.”
Under USDA regulations, federal SNAP food assistance benefits are not available to these low-income, able-bodied single adults unless they demonstrate they are either working at least 20 hours a week or meeting other workforce training or job-seeking requirements. However, Louisiana is one of 31 states which currently qualify to ask for a waiver of that requirement because its unemployment rate is high enough to meet the U.S. Department of Labor’s criteria for extended benefits under the unemployment insurance program.
In October, Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration sent a letter to this group of adults – numbering 62,000 at that time – notifying them that Governor Jindal this year would not be requesting the federal waiver that allows these adults to receive SNAP food assistance without demonstrating they are working at least 20 hours a week. Currently, DCFS says that 31,000 of those 62,000 people remain dependent upon the ABAWD waiver for their food assistance. This means that these 31,000 people stand to lose their electronic food benefits starting in the month of January.
Governor-electEdwards indicated in letters to both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service and to DCFS that, when he officially takes office onJanuary 11, he will officially request the federal waiver allowing SNAP food assistance benefits for ABAWDs to be continued for Fiscal Year 2016 (which begins October 1, 2015 and endsSeptember 30, 2016).
Typically, SNAP food benefits are distributed electronically between the first and fifteenth days of each month. From the first day of the month through the sixth day, SNAP benefits are distributed electronically to elderly and disabled recipients. The DCFS has indicated that the group of adults affected by the Governor-elect’s request would typically begin receiving their January electronic deposits atmidnight onJanuary 6.
Governor-electEdwards’ transition team staff is working with DCFS staff to try to avoid any interruption of benefits and to determine whether, upon aJanuary 11, 2016 official request, the federal government could possibly make the distribution of ABAWD benefits under the waiver retroactive to October 1, 2015.
According to DCFS, it will cost approximately $72 million in direct benefits over the next year to continue electronic food assistance benefits for the 31,000 remaining ABAWDs. The entire $72 million is federally funded and will not require any additional state funds to continue.