As soon as he entered office, Edwards rescinded his predecessor former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s last-minute change that allowed the state’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program waiver to expire. That allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to continue receiving food stamps beyond the three out of 36 months period unless working or in a training program for at least 20 hours a week.
Edwards later issued a cosmetic executive order allegedly addressing the open-ended nature of the benefit, mandating that recipients had to report regularly for job training centers – which they already had to do in many cases to receive unemployment insurance, replicating for SNAP the same undemanding requirement to draw that. This does little or nothing to encourage work, which withdrawal of SNAP benefits certainly would do, if history provides any guide.
In the time after Edwards’ repeal, the good news is while unemployment has fallen with some pickup in the oil patch and fewer Louisianans accessing SNAP than last year at this time in the wake of severe flooding in parts of the state, the bad news is more do so than when Edwards reversed the state’s course and the unemployment rate remains the nation’s third highest. Comparisons with other states show a relationship between having the waiver and higher unemployment with fewer jobs filled.
Most recently, while Louisiana kept the waiver, Alabama got rid of it. In the same period from the beginning of 2016, Alabama saw a decrease of 85 percent in the previously-exempted category, and for the 12-month period from the middle of last year saw its unemployment rate fall 1.3 percent compared to Louisiana’s 0.9 percent. Over the same period, Georgia repealed this in some of its counties, watching the category total fall by 21 percent statewide and the unemployment rate decrease by 0.6 percent. In addition, while the number of employed Louisianans over that span has risen just 0.6 percent, Alabama saw an increase of 1.6 percent and Georgia of 2.2 percent.
These results mirror those experienced by other states such as Kansas and Maine in previous years. Further, dispelling the notion that individuals without food coupons would increase consumption of other social welfare benefits, no significant changes in that kind of spending occurred in those states. In fact, surveying former program participants, Maine found their average incomes had more than doubled.
Comparative results from other states shows the idea that mass hunger and poverty would result from ending the exemption is a myth. Instead, many former recipients discarded their crutches and improved their lives with less burden to taxpayers, both in terms of federal taxes paid that supports SNAP and in state taxes needed to fund related welfare programs that lost business as a result.
What about this does Edwards not understand? Unfortunately, it seems for him buying votes for his reelection by dispensing goodies like SNAP is more important than aiding taxpayers and helping other end their dependencies on government.