Louisiana’s surging rates of unemployment and food insecurity led to a massive increase in applications for SNAP (formerly, Food Stamps), beginning in mid-March, when the state’s stay at home order went into effect. On April 13, Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) faced a backlog of over 95,000 unprocessed applications submitted since the beginning of February.
Now, the agency’s backlog is beginning to turn the corner, thanks to a significant increase in processing capacity and a decline in the number of new applications the agency receives each day.
In the first week of February, state caseworkers processed an average of 1,589 applications each work day. In the workweek starting April 13, the agency more than tripled that average, processing a total of 5,681 applications per work day. In addition to new flexibilities in SNAP rules that the state instituted earlier in the crisis (discussed here), several other factors have contributed to the improvement in the state’s application processing rate:
If the current, relatively stable rate of decline in the agency’s application backlog continues, it will take the agency an estimated 32 calendar days to resolve the current backlog. Changes in application volume or rate of application processing would affect the time it takes the agency to clear the current backlog.
The state’s response to the surge in SNAP application volume is a commendable reaction to a very challenging circumstance. Once this crisis passes, however, the need for efficient and accessible systems for getting food assistance to people struggling to keep food on the table will remain. Louisiana’s policymakers should invest in continued improvements to the systems that people in Louisiana use to access SNAP and other income and work support programs.
Even when we aren’t living through a global crisis, paperwork hurdles and processing problems shouldn’t keep families from the help they deserve.
-by Danny Mintz