State budget woes could result in end of SNAP benefits program
(WVUE) - Leaders with the Department of Children and Family Services say they're already having discussion with the Feds about the possibility ending the SNAP benefits program. It comes as legislators await a third special session to figure out how to fund a number of state programs.
Yet some lawmakers say this isn't a money fight, it's a battle over ideas.
"About 20% of all Louisiana ends are on the SNAP program," said Senator Wesley Bishop. "There are too many people in the state of Louisiana who depend on those services for us not to get this done."
But unless legislators can come up with more revenue for the state budget, the Department of Children and Family Services could take a more than $30 million hit. That's enough to close down the department's SNAP program.
"We're down to a relatively narrow amount of money that we have to raise in the form of some sort of new taxes or some changes to credits and exemptions," explained Republican Senator Conrad Appel.
He adds that he doesn't see an end to SNAP. He says the issue will not be whether the program will be funded, but how much it will be funded.
"The State of Louisiana has grown dramatically in the amount of money that it has to spend. We're going up about five-billion dollars in two years. There may not be enough to fully fund everything, but it should be pretty close," said Appel.
Senator Appel says one option the governor and other lawmakers have not addressed is finding ways to stimulate the economy so that fewer people need SNAP benefits. That means less funding would be necessary for the program.
"The governor wants a lot more money to fund these programs, but he doesn't talk about the issues necessary to break the cycle that keeps people on those programs," Appel said. "SNAP, Medicaid and a lot of these other programs are really intended, to a great extent, to be short term. Not for everyone."
Senator Wesley Bishop says lawmakers options haven't changed and says the legislature could have and should have eliminated the need for another special session.
"It's not a matter of individuals being unfocused. It's a handful of individuals who choose, for whatever reason, to not fund our state in a way in which the vast majority of individuals want to get that done," said Bishop.
Even so, both Bishop and Appel are optimistic leaders will find the money necessary to fund programs appropriately.
The third special session is set to begin Monday, June 18.
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