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Louisiana's Food Stamp Program Threatened By Budget Uncertainty

Wallis Watkins

If lawmakers can’t reach a tax compromise by June 30, many state agencies would face steep budget cuts.

Marketa Walters is the Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services. In the event the Legislature fails to replace expiring revenue in a third special session, her department would be cut more than 20 percent.

“The only way that DCFS can take that is to eliminate the SNAP program, the food stamp program in the state," Walters says.

The food stamp program is largely paid for with federal dollars. But the state helps pay to run the program, which serves about 860,000 people in Louisiana. “Sixty-four percent of the people on SNAP benefits are either elderly, disabled or children," adds Walters.

If the DCFS budget is cut by 24 percent, Walters says the program would have to end on Jan. 1 of next year. That would make Louisiana an outlier among other states.

“There’s never been a state that has terminated its SNAP program," says Walters. "So we’d be the only state in the Union that didn’t have a SNAP program.”

The Legislature did pass a budget in the final hours of the special session Monday. Gov. John Bel Edwards doesn’t support that budget because of the cuts it would require, but he urged state agencies to take every necessary precaution and plan for the worst case scenario. That is what Secretary Walters says she’s doing at DCFS.

“I think it’s incumbent upon me as the executive of this agency to be prepared should I face a 24.2 percent cut in how many days? That I know what I’m gonna do. So yeah, we’re making plans," Walters says.

Gov. Edwards is expected to call legislators into a third special session before the end of the month in order to raise revenue and avoid major cuts to state agencies.