Food stamp aid reduced with the start of November

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Most of the nearly 388,000 households in Louisiana that receive food stamps will be hit with a drop in their aid Friday, when a temporary boost in the federal benefits disappears.

The reduction depends on household size and whether the family currently receives the maximum food stamp amount allowed under the law for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, called SNAP.

The cut ranges from $11 each month for a one-person household getting the maximum aid to $43 for a household with five people, about a 5 percent reduction, according to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, or DCFS.

The federal stimulus bill passed by Congress in 2009 temporarily increased the maximum amount of food stamp aid that people could receive. The increase falls away at the start of November for food stamp programs in all states.

"The state of Louisiana cannot prevent or change the decrease in SNAP benefits. The decrease is required by federal law, applies to all households in the United States and is not subject to appeal," the state warned food stamp recipients in a flyer posted in its social services offices around the state and on its website.

DCFS spokesman Trey Williams said he didn't have an exact figure of how many Louisiana food stamp recipients will get an aid cut, but he said it would affect most of the state's households in the program.   More than 866,000 people live in the Louisiana households that receive food stamps, according to DCFS. The small amount of reduction could be a sizable cut to families already living on the financial edge.

"We anticipate that our clients will be seeking more help from us in light of this reduction. In our 11-parish service area, we already had a meal gap of over 20 million meals for the food insecure after all federal feeding programs and the food we distribute. This reduction in SNAP will increase that gap," Mike Manning, president of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, said in a statement Thursday.

The average monthly payment to households in Louisiana's program has been about $307 this year, according to state data. The Louisiana Budget Project, which advocates for low- to moderate-income families, said the $29 monthly decrease in food stamp aid for a family of three was "the equivalent of taking away about 16 meals per month," dropping the average benefit to less than $1.40 per person for each meal.

Louisiana saw continued growth in the number of households receiving food stamps in the last five years, with a high of more than 404,000 households - nearly 908,000 individual recipients - in the SNAP program in the last fiscal year. The number has dropped slightly this year so far, according to DCFS data.

Nearly $1.5 billion in food stamp aid was paid to Louisiana families last year.   The total cut to food stamp payments in Louisiana is projected to be $98 million for the federal fiscal year, running through September 2014, according to the Louisiana Budget Project.   Further reductions are being proposed in Congress, to cut federal government spending.

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