Louisiana Food Stamp Work Requirements On The Chopping Block

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Incoming Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards detailed in a letter Monday how he intends to upend recently restored work requirements for food stamps.

The work requirements, restored under outgoing Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, essentially require people on food stamps to work. Edwards, however, wants to do away with the work requirements once he takes office. He expressed his intent in a letter, obtained by The Associated Press, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“I believe that we should do everything possible to assist those that are able to return to gainful employment so that they will no longer be in need of the SNAP program,” Edwards wrote in the letter. “I intend to use this extension for 2016 to work with the (Department of Children and Family Services) and the legislature to develop programs that offer workforce training and assistance to those on SNAP benefits,” Edwards wrote to Suzy Sonnier, secretary of the state family services department.”

The federal government has required work or job training to qualify for benefits since 1996. The work requirements apply to able-bodied adults without children. After the recession, though, many states were granted waivers that allowed them to ignore the requirements.

The improved economy has prompted several states to reconsider the waiver. Louisiana let its waiver expire Oct. 1. Without the waiver, able-bodied adults without children must work at least 20 hours a week or be in a federally approved job training program. Jindal’s office argues that upending the requirements will hurt state residents.

“Having a job is empowering,” Jindal Spokesman Mike Reed said in a statement to The Associated Press. “This decision will mean more able-bodied Louisianians will be dependent on the government and discouraged from joining the workforce.”

The work requirements will take effect Jan. 1 about a week before Edwards takes office. Other states, like Louisiana and Wisconsin, have also let their waivers expire. As of June, 44 states have either a waiver or a partial waiver.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The improved economy has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. Since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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