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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report shows that Louisiana enrolled 74 percent of eligible households in SNAP, only outpaced (in order) by Missouri (100 percent), Maine (91 percent), Michigan (89 percent), Tennessee (87 percent), Oregon (87 percent), West Virginia (85 percent), Kentucky (83 percent), Illinois (83 percent), District of Columbia (78 percent), Arkansas (77 percent), Pennsylvania (76 percent) and Washington (76 percent).
Only 18 states, including Louisiana, enrolled more than 70 percent or more of those eligible for food stamps in 2007.
The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services (DSS) has taken steps in the last few months to simplify the steps to apply for those eligible for benefits, such as reducing the need for applicants to visit an office to apply. DSS recently applied for and received a waiver from the federal government that allows SNAP applicants to conduct phone interviews instead of in-person interviews.
"This waiver is one of our first steps toward modernization and changing the way people enroll in our services," said Nichols. "DSS is in the process of re-engineering its business processes for enrollment and eligibility. Prior to this waiver, people had to come to DSS offices and sit for hours to process their applications. Now, the same process can be done over the phone."
DSS is working toward taking applications online, as well as working more closely with community partners to help clients fill out and submit applications.
"We want to simplify the process families go through to apply for needed aid, as well as minimize the amount of time that applicants might need to take off from work in order to complete the application process," said Nichols.
Funds received through an award to DSS from the USDA will assist in continued modernizations efforts. Louisiana received more than $1.8 million for having the best SNAP application processing times in the country.
In October, 323,657 households, a total of 772,873 people, received benefits from the SNAP program, which is federally funded.
A single person can earn a gross income of $1,174 and be eligible for a maximum benefit of $200. A family of four can earn a gross income of $2,389 and be eligible for a maximum benefit of $668.
Gross income is a household's total income, before any deductions have been made, which can include medical, dependent care, child support and shelter deductions.
Visit www.dss.louisiana.gov/SNAP or call 1-888-LA-HELP-U to find out if you may be eligible for the SNAP program and to find out how to apply.