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BATON ROUGE – The Department of Children & Family Services today announced the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services had denied Louisiana’s request
to issue a second month of Disaster Food Stamp benefits to residents in the following 13
parishes: Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans,
Plaquemines, Sabine, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Vernon.
DSS Interim Secretary Kristy Nichols said, “We disagree with the USDA decision. We believe
that citizens who experienced the devastation of two storms in a single month should receive an
extra month of disaster benefits. However, in light of the federal denial, we strongly encourage
citizens in need to seek assistance through our regular food stamp program.”
When making the request for an extra month of benefits, DSS submitted data on unemployment
compensation claims in the 13 parishes, which increased as a whole by 27 percent between August
30 and October 18. However, the USDA said their analysis of the data indicates unemployment
claims peaked on Sept.13 and have been dropping steadily ever since. DSS, in cooperation with
the Louisiana Workforce Commission and Louisiana Economic Development, had previously
submitted economic data on the impact of Hurricane Ike on the parishes.
In the denial, FNS Acting Administrator E. Enrique Gomez said, “We do not believe that this
single indicator sufficiently demonstrates a continuing need for additional Disaster Food Stamp
assistance in these communities since the change varies across parishes and could be influenced
by other economic factors and better addressed through the regular food stamp program.”
On Oct. 21, USDA approved DSS’ request for an extra month of benefits in seven parishes
affected by both Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The seven parishes approved by the USDA were
Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson, St. Mary, Terrebonne and Vermilion.
Federal policy normally does not allow for more than one benefit period of Disaster Food
Stamps per month, no matter how many storms occur during that benefit period. Since Gustav
and Ike both hit Louisiana in September, Nichols requested an exception to the USDA policy
immediately following Ike’s landfall, as residents had lost income and incurred disaster related
expenses from two closely occurring storms.
Nichols emphasized that residents may be eligible for regular food stamp benefits if they:
- Receive low wages for work, or
- Receive assistance payments such as FITAP or Kinship Care Subsidy, or
- are homeless.
In order to be eligible for regular food stamps, residents also must meet eligibility requirements
based on the amount of resources in the bank. For most Louisiana residents, the limit is $2,000 or
less. If a household member has a disability or is 60 years of age or older, that resource limit is