(WVUE) - A major change in the state's food stamp program took effect Friday: Recipients who are not disabled, and do not have a job, or attend school are now required to take part in job training.
"The first day for enhanced job training, education and workforce requirements for SNAP benefits for the what we call 'ABAWDs' - able-bodied adults without dependents," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The state's new governor signed an executive order after taking office, setting the new standards. For years, the state has operated under a waiver from the federal time limit for non-disabled food stamp recipients.
"The state of Louisiana for 19 years has operated with a waiver because we have higher unemployment in Louisiana than the national average and that is unfortunate. Certainly the case now with the downturn in the oil and gas sector where about 14,000 people have lost their jobs over the last year," said the governor during an interview with FOX 8 News.
The state said the SNAP Program currents serves approximately 70,000 people who qualify as ABAWDS, but only 52,000 will be affected by the new directive since 18,000 already work or attend school, or otherwise are exempt from the federal work requirement.
"We want to be that safety net while at the same time trying to get these people to become self-sufficient," said Sammy Guillory, deputy assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
The change involves a partnership between DCFS, the Louisiana Workforce Commission and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.
"It is a model template, and I think that you're going to see interest from around the country because no other state is doing this," said the governor.
Guillory said letters are going out to recipients requiring them to show up for interviews and assessments.
"And then they'll work with Louisiana Workforce Commission to be placed into the appropriate activity on a case-by-case basis," he said.
Through that partnership, able-bodied SNAP participants will be connected to already successful job placement programs around the state.
"Depending on the individuals' education, training, work experience they'll make the appropriate placement. Some of those will be with the technical colleges, some might be to get a high school diploma, some might be to get work experience," said Guillory.
Those who fail to comply will lose their food stamps.
"Ultimately, if they do not comply and do not have a very good reason for not complying, they can lose their SNAP benefits," said Guillory.
The governor's office said the SNAP Program provides ABAWDS a maximum of $194 a month in food assistance.