$4.2 million spent to distribute EBR food stamps

DSNAP site after Hurricane Isaac
DSNAP site after Hurricane Isaac

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The process of operating emergency food stamp distribution sites tied to Hurricane Isaac topped $4.2 million dollars in East Baton Rouge parish alone, according to records examined by the 9News I-Team. The program distributed $12.4 million in emergency aid.

Louisiana's Department of Children & Family Services set up six distribution sites for residents of East Baton Rouge parish to apply for the emergency aid in September. The locations remained open for one week.

Expenses included items like tables, chairs, tents, portable toilets, generators, security and on-site managers. Nearly 1,800 state workers were on hand at the sites to process applications.

The state ordered 240 temporary toilets for all of the locations. Four of the six locations already had permanent restrooms so they did not need as many temporary toilets. However, two of the locations, the former Walmart store in Baker and the former Sam's Club on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, did not have permanent restroom facilities. 82 temporary toilets were delivered to the former Walmart store.  The former's Sam's Club received 112 temporary toilets for the week. The total cost for all 240 temporary toilets was $360,214.00, according to records.

Piccadilly Restaurants won the bid to provide food and snacks for the six locations. The total bill for that service was $491,807.45, according to state records. The state says it was cheaper to have food catered at the locations than to reimburse state workers for buying their own meals. Many of the state workers would have qualified for reimbursement because they traveled from other parts of the state to work at the sites.

The companies that provided many of the items used at the distribution site were placed under contracts by the state many months in advance of hurricane season. The state says that is crucial to do because, many times, the items are needed with very little notice.

The $4.2 million dollar expense to operate the sites does not include any wages for employees. Louisiana paid for half of the cost with the federal government picking up the other half, state officials say.

The state says, this time around, the process ran very smoothly and most applicants were in and out of locations in less than 30 minutes. That's a stark contrast to how the process worked four years ago during Hurricane Gustav. That's when application sites had extremely long lines and limited restroom facilities. The fiasco during Gustav eventually led to the resignation of the head of the state agency that distributes food stamps.

Trey Williams, spokesman for Louisiana's Department of Children & Family Services, says Louisiana's program is now so successful that it is used as a model for other states.   
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