KENNEDY: It’s Time To Stop Food Stamp Abuse

Too many people in Louisiana are on food stamps. Every politician in Baton Rouge knows it, but few are willing to say it.

Let me be clear. I’m not talking about our oilfield families who have faced layoffs or reduced schedules. I’m not talking about folks still recovering from the recent floods. No, I’m talking about able-bodied adults between the ages of 18-49 with no dependents who have been unemployed for years.

I have the utmost compassion for those families who truly need assistance, and I do believe society should offer a basic safety net to help them transition into better jobs and careers. But I have absolutely no tolerance for individuals who abuse the system by stealing hard-earned taxpayer dollars, who steal resources from the truly needy, and who should be working in the first place. Instead, we need justice for that kind of abuse, and I think Louisiana citizens want that as well. Two bills currently before the Legislature move us closer to that kind of accountability, and I hope the Governor will support them.

House Bill 594 by state Rep. Jay Morris would require legislative authorization to eliminate the federal food stamp work requirements for able-bodied adults aged 18 to 49 without dependents. This authorization is important because, as citizens may remember, the Governor requested a waiver for food stamp work requirements upon being elected without any input from the Legislature. This bill ensures that the Legislature will have a say in the matter.

Next, House Bill 987 by state Rep. Mike Johnson allows individuals who are fraudulently using food stamps to be prosecuted and requires them to pay back the assistance they received. The reports of abuse in North Louisiana after the storms, in which individuals not affected by the floods were obtaining food stamps, are downright disgraceful. Those are dollars that should have gone to actual flood victims and their families. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services required no proof of damage because it said it would take too much time to process. Instead, all DCFS asked for was a form of identification. This bill would ensure that the whistleblowers reporting the fraud are protected and that violators pay back the taxpayer dollars they stole.

These bills offer common sense requirements that most citizens probably assume are already being enforced. Unfortunately, common sense and state government don’t always go hand-in-hand. Food stamps should not be a way of life when you are able-bodied, have no dependents, and can go find a job and work the minimum of 20 hours a week to receive assistance. Food stamps are supposed to be a helping hand so that you don’t starve while you’re crossing the bridge between poverty and self-sufficiency. The American dream isn’t a life spent on food stamps; it’s a life spent in pursuit of prosperity.

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