Louisiana Restores Food Stamp Benefits for Thousands

On December 18, 2015, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) and NCLEJ filed a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana for threatening to terminate food stamps for more than 31,000 low-income individuals.

Outgoing Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration reversed an 18-year policy of applying for a waiver from the federal government of a federal food stamp law requiring able-bodied adults without dependents to find work as a condition of receiving food stamps or face a three-month time limit (out of 36 months) on receipt of food stamps.

The suit alleges that the administration’s unlawful actions, which were taken notwithstanding Louisiana’s chronic high unemployment, would cause many thousands to go hungry. NOWCRJ and NCLEJ sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction challenging the State’s implementation of the requirement as a violation of due process and the federal food stamp law, arguing that in its rush to implement the State did not inform food stamp recipients of the requirements or exemptions, provide a process for them to demonstrate compliance, assess individuals to determine whether they are subject to the rule, or provide constitutionally adequate notice of termination.

On December 21, 2015, Governor-elect John Bel Edwards indicated in letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and to the Louisiana agency that, when he takes office on January 11, 2016, he will request the federal waiver allowing food assistance benefits for able-bodied adults without dependents to be continued for Fiscal Year 2016.

If NOWCRJ and NCLEJ had not acted, many Louisianans would certainly have gone hungry, seen their health worsen, become homeless, or foregone medications as they spent their meager income on food.

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