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Gov. Edwards to develop new workforce and career development program for SNAP participants

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BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor John Bel Edwards issued an executive order creating a new Louisiana partnership that will require all Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) who participate in the SNAP food assistance program, but who are not currently working or in school, to participate in job training and assistance programs in order to remain eligible for federal food assistance.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) will administer the new program.

Gov. John Bel Edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards

“Louisiana values both compassion and sustainable employment that provides for our families,” said Gov. Edwards. “As I promised back in December, this Executive Order establishes practical work-related requirements, while recognizing the daily challenges faced by those receiving government assistance and connecting these citizens with the tools to help achieve meaningful employment.”

For the past 19 years, including every year under the Jindal administration, due to high unemployment rates, Louisiana has qualified for and received a waiver of federal work requirements under SNAP for certain non-disabled adults ages 18-49 living in homes without children under the age of 18, known as ABAWDS. The SNAP program provides each of these adults with a maximum of $194 in food assistance each month. Without this waiver, these ABAWD participants in SNAP are only able to qualify for this food assistance for three months in a 36 month period unless the participant can document satisfactory work, education or volunteer activities, as qualified under federal law.

However, under the waiver, federal rules allow Louisiana, and other states, to create their own work registration requirements. Like his predecessors, Gov. Edwards requested the waiver when he took office, pledging to find a workable way to move more ABAWDs into employment.

Gov. Edwards is creating a Louisiana partnership between DCFS, LWC, and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), connecting ABAWD participants in SNAP to already-successful Louisiana job placement programs to ensure a better success rate, mindful of these participants’ unique challenges.

“There are so many of our Louisiana adults who want to find a way to work, but because of circumstances beyond their control have not been able to move forward,” said DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters. “Under Governor Edwards’ initiative, we will meet each individual participant where they are to help make a difference in each life in a meaningful way.”

Beginning July 1, 2016, DCFS will refer each ABAWD participant to go in-person to participate at one of the 59 Louisiana Workforce Commission Business and Career Solutions Centers, where LCTCS is already partnering with its WorkReady U skills assessment and job training program.

“Our centers are a proven success,” said Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Ava Dejoie. “In one year ending September 2015, we have placed more than 116,700 new hires in a Louisiana job. Our counselors work diligently with each person to help prepare, train and connect each individual to a job as they are ready.”

“No one can underestimate the power of education in transforming lives,” said LCTCS System President Dr. Monty Sullivan. “Through WorkReady U, Louisiana’s comprehensive adult education program, we will be able to provide additional basic skills and job training opportunities for these new entrants into the workforce.”

High unemployment in Louisiana means the waiver will remain in place; however, federal rules allow the state to implement its own Louisiana plan using Louisiana programs to best help Louisiana’s people. Previous efforts to create entirely new workforce training programs have proven to be unsuccessful.

“This is better than simply refusing to request the waiver,” said Gov. Edwards, “I am developing a Louisiana solution that puts Louisiana people and their unique challenges first. It treats each individual with dignity in a personalized way that works to address their specific challenges. This also keeps the state from being saddled with burdensome federal regulations or expenses that would kick in if we simply refused the waiver and implemented work requirements.”

There are approximately 64,000 ABAWDS in the state. The Department of Children and Family Services estimates that this Executive Order will affect about 47,000, as some 17,000 ABAWDs already work, are attending school or are otherwise exempt from the federal work requirement.

To read the governor’s executive order, click here.