Falling Through the Cracks: Nearly 30% of Louisiana’s “Working Poor” Eligible for SNAP Don’t Receive Benefits

Image by Leroy Skalstad from Pixabay

According to a recent report by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly 15 percent of Louisianans who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) don’t receive benefits. This puts the state about on par with the national average – across the U.S. around 16 percent of those eligible for SNAP don’t participate in the program.

Graphic courtesy USDA

When further examining participation across the state, the USDA found that around 30 percent of Louisiana’s “working poor” people – people who are eligible for SNAP benefits and live in a household where at least one person earns income from a job – don’t receive benefits. This means that Louisiana ranks 25th in SNAP program participation versus eligiblity, suggesting that more could be done to assist the state’s most vulnerable families. Oregon was #1, while Wyoming ranked 51st.

Graphic courtesy USDA

Food insecurity was a growing problem even before the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, one in seven U.S. households needs help to put enough food on the table.  Participation in SNAP has been proven to reduce hunger, help children learn more effectively, improve overall mental and physical health, help lift families out of poverty, and strengthen the economic self-sufficiency of women, particularly single mothers. The USDA has stated that every $5 received in food stamp benefits results in $9 of economic activity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse. As previously reported, Louisiana currently has the worst rate of childhood food insecurity in the nation, with over 354,000 children facing food insecurity in 2019. Even those who do receive SNAP benefits face difficulties using them, particluarly now. Louisiana SNAP recipients cannot use their benefits to order groceries online for contactless pickup or have their groceries delivered, putting some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens at increased risk for contracting COVID-19.

Many of those considered working poor who don’t receive benefits face barriers during the application process. For instance, visiting a SNAP office may require taking time off work, securing child care. They may lack access to transportation. To reduce these barriers, Louisiana has moved it’s application online – if you need food assistance, you can fill one out here. In order to verify your eligibility, you will need to submit:

  • Proof of identity: A copy of your driver’s license, work or school ID, health care benefit ID, voter registration card, birth certificate, etc.
  • Immigration status: If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can prove that you have legal resident status in the U.S. with forms or cards from USCIS.
  • Proof of wages: Your last four paycheck stubs or an employer’s statement for each person who works in the household.
  • Proof of self-employment: if you are self-employed you can still apply! You will need to submit income tax returns, sales records, quarterly tax records, or your personal wage record.
  • Proof of other income: this includes child support, alimony, Social Security benefits, SSI, VA, retirement checks, and unemployment compensation. This might require copies of any award letters, court orders, or statements from contributors. This also includes proof of any income that has stopped within the last three months, such as a termination notice or statement from your former employer.
  • Proof of medical expenses: you will need to submit receipts, printouts from your pharmacy from the last three months, doctor bills, or other papers that show your medical expenses for any household members who are disabled or over the age of 59.
  • Proof of child support payments made to someone outside your home: this might include a court order or any other legal proof that you are making payments including wage withholding statements or cancelled checks.

To many, the above list is a barrier in and of itself. Those who need help with their application can contact the Department of Children and Family Services at 1-888-LAHELP-U.

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