Revised food subsidy policy harms livelihoods

Sarah Simon, Associate Views Editor

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

On Oct. 1, nearly 64,000 Louisiana residents risked losing their access to food stamps, and almost one-third of these residents come from New Orleans and the surrounding area. The requirements for accessing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program changed from accommodating the unemployed to preventing able-bodied people aged 18-49 from getting food stamps if they are neither employed nor in a federally-approved job training program. Despite the intent of incentivizing people to seek employment or government job training programs, this is a dangerous shift in a struggling economy.

The new regulation on SNAP was implemented with the goal of incentivizing self-sufficiency. Without added government programs to help citizens get employed, however, this effort is futile. As of September, Louisiana had one of the nation’s highest rates of unemployment, at 6 percent. Targeting people who require government aid will not combat unemployment rates. Instead, it only harms the people who need help.

The SNAP policy change allows three months for unemployed benefit-receivers to get a job or enroll in a job-training program.

As an alternative to the required 20-hour work week, SNAP recipients can still receive benefits by doing 20 hours a week of a nonpaid job or approved volunteer work. Though this provides a safety net, it is still not fair to expect 64,000 people to get employed in three months. Though well-intentioned, this is not a safe path to self-sufficiency.

The policy change also lacks grounding in saving state money for other purposes, since SNAP is a federally funded program. Changing the requirements will not help Louisiana allocate money to other areas of need, since the changes would only save money for the federal government.

The changes to SNAP are dangerously sudden. With a high rate of unemployment and no change in government aid for the issue, the Louisiana state government has made a mistake. The war on the poor cannot be legitimized through rhetoric about self-sufficiency.

Sarah is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]