You read that correct: One of every five Louisianans receive food stamps. Or, more technically, they receive payments from the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), and those payments are used to purchase groceries.

This is according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s newly released performance audit report of the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: COVID-19 Impact.” SNAP is administered by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.

Here’s the Auditor’s chart that shows the number of SNAP recipients before the pandemic and following shutdowns that took off in March 2020 and lasted until January 2023.

This is understandable as the unemployment rate soared from 5.2% in February 2020 to 13.5% in April 2020. With 270,000 people losing their private sector job in that period, many of them were eligible for SNAP.

The number of people using SNAP before the shutdowns was about one of every six Louisianans, but that increased dramatically during the shutdown. The number declined for a while, but has been increasing again since March 2022 to 936,112 in January 2023, or about one of every five Louisianans.

But that’s not all. The average benefits per household per month increased from $271.61 in February 2020 to $554.03 in January 2023. This means that households are receiving, on average, more than double what they were three years ago before the shutdowns, as noted in the following chart.

SNAP benefits are set to be reduced soon as the federal emergency declaration ends. Many people have been dependent on these payments for years, and this will disrupt their budgets.

But it is time to return to normal, especially three years after the start of the pandemic. Receiving such a large amount of food stamps for so long has discouraged many people from working, and work is the best path to gain dignity and find long-term self-sufficiency.

We encourage the Legislature and the Auditor to continue reviewing SNAP and other safety net programs so that scarce taxpayer dollars can be focused on the people who need it most and not go to waste, fraud, or abuse. Doing so will help Louisianans find more opportunities to overcome challenges and set them on a path that helps them flourish and positions Louisiana for a thriving comeback.