(WAFB) - Proposed budget cuts could eliminate the state's food stamp program, says Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Secretary Marketa Garner Walters.
About 860,000 Louisianans rely on the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), for their next meal. One in every five residents uses the program.
"There are so many people, not just people who don't have jobs, but people who are the working poor who depend on that to supplement their $7.25 income and less to buy groceries for their families," said Poor People's Campaign protester, Janice Long. "If they cut that, how are they going to eat?"
About 65 percent of SNAP recipients are children, elderly, or disabled. Garner Walters says DCFS has sustained too many cuts in the last decade and SNAP is all that's left to trim. "It is a process of elimination. It is not a scare tactic," said Walters.
If the legislature cannot raise revenue in its third attempt to cover the current budget shortfall, 1,000 DCFS workers would be laid off. Walters says some of the 4,500 stores that accept SNAP would have to close because of lost revenue. And without SNAP, there can be no DSNAP, which provides aid after disasters.
"There are food banks. They will quickly be overrun," Walters said. "We will hope and pray that church groups will stand up and community groups will stand up, but I don't think anybody is ready for 860,000 people in this state to suddenly not have enough to eat."
If the proposed cuts become law, DCFS would begin shutting the program down on September 1. No state has ever completely eliminated SNAP. Walters says the federal government does not know exactly how to go about eliminating the program, should that have to happen. She says reinstating the program after it was shut down would be even more difficult.
The legislature was only seven votes shy of passing revenue that would fund DCFS in the second special session. Lawmakers will try again beginning June 18. They have until June 27 to reach a compromise.