Over 46 million Americans rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for reliable access to food. But on the first day of the new year, 31,000 of them in the state of Louisiana will likely go hungry thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The rules for SNAP normally require single, able-bodied adults to have a job or be enrolled in a job-training program in order to get full benefits (otherwise they can only get benefits for three months every three years), but states with high unemployment rates can apply for a waiver so adults can get full benefits even without a job.
According to a report from Al Jazeera, "since the beginning of the Great Recession, nearly every state in the country sought and was granted a federal waiver at some point."
Recently, though, a number of states (all with Republican governors) have allowed their waivers to expire, meaning the work requirement will go back into place. One of those governors is former presidential candidate Bobby Jindal.
Suzy Sonnier, the head of Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, said in statement released in the fall, “We continue to seek opportunities for SNAP recipients to increase their self-sufficiency. Engaging in work activities is a key step in that transition.”
But critics of the decision assert that those who rely on SNAP aren't choosing not to work. And it's been pretty firmly established that the idea of the "welfare queen" is a complete myth.
“The idea that anybody is choosing not to work because of $190 dollars a month in food stamps — that’s really kind of a stereotype,” Steve Spires, a senior policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project, told Al Jazeera. “The reality is a lot of people want to work. There simply aren’t jobs. And with the price of oil going down and more job losses, it’s getting worse.”
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that single adults benefitting from SNAP are among the poorest in the nation, and that when work requirements are reimposed, states often see a dramatic decrease in the number of SNAP participants, suggesting that many unemployed participants are unable to find jobs in order to stay eligible and not go hungry.
Joanika Davis, a Louisiana resident who relies on the $194 worth of food she gets from SNAP every month while she looks for a job, is now set to lose her benefits at the beginning of 2016, according to the Al Jazeera report. “Why should I have to fight for food right now?” Davis asked. “Why should I have to fight to drink water?"
Al Jazeera also notes that Louisiana isn't the only state where this is happening -- Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming have also recently allowed their waivers to expire, and only 28 states will have waivers in place for 2016.