The adults intervened, handing Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards a humiliating defeat on food stamps policy.
Last week, Edwards acknowledged this by sheepishly retracting Executive Order JBE 16-12 with JBE 20-5. This came in response to the finalization of federal government rules regarding the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program that essentially forcibly restored changes Edwards had made to eligibility requirements not long after taking office.
His predecessor, joining the majority of states, just before leaving office had let expire waivers the state had regarding SNAP. Ordinarily, under the old (and illegal) federal rules a state could ask for a blanket waiver of program requirements that able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) work, train for work, or volunteer in order to qualify to receive this benefit more than three months out of every three years.
Despite the fact that states which have ended waivers enjoyed cost savings, reduced unemployment, and greater personal earnings among their peoples, Edwards reapplied for the blanket waiver and continued to do so throughout his term even though a growing number of states kept jettisoning the blanket waiver in favor of ones targeted to counties or metropolitan areas or completely.
Cynically, Edwards also issued JBE 16-12 as a fig leaf to claim it addressed the problem of ABAWD disincentives to work. It did nothing of the sort, and its revocation for being in contradiction with the new federal rules validates its practical useless and its existence only as a deceptive political talking point with no substantive value.
Basically, the new rules mimic those in place eight years ago before the Democrat Pres. Barack Obama Administration gutted work requirements. With the old order’s revocation, the state announced it expected the change would affect around 31,000 of the over 800,000 recipients statewide. The Edwards Administration successfully applied for the county exemption (unemployment rates of 6 percent or higher), which at present comprises 14 parishes that will last a year. And a long list of exceptions makes some ABAWDs eligible anywhere.
Unfortunately, four years passed under the lenient Edwards policy, a period that saw Louisiana sink into becoming perhaps the worst state economy in the country. Undoubtedly his policy that excused the ABAWDs from work contributed to this by shortchanging the skills and labor pool. The Republican Pres. Donald Trump Administration’s gradual overhaul of the program will reverse this situation, an important step to reviving a Louisiana economy that has shown little growth and chased residents away under Edwards.