Editorial: Louisiana got it right with Isaac response

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration received high marks for its handling of food stamps in the New Orleans area in the wake

of Hurricane Isaac.

Bill Ludwig, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s regional director, said the state did a “good job” in distributing disaster

food stamp benefits to low- to moderate-income households.

That’s not to say there weren’t

issues. At some sites, long lines snaked around the distribution

locations in New Orleans,

Westwego, Gonzales and Slidell and, in some instances, the lines

were so long, potential clients were told to go home and

come back the next day. Ludwig said some of that can be chalked up

to more people showing up for distribution than were expected.

He also said some of the long queues can be attributed to the

state lifting the sorting process that had originally designated

certain days for people to line up for applications based on the

beginning letter of their last name.

Ludwig said that in any instance of disaster food stamp distribution that involves as many as 100,000, problems will arise.

“The reality is,” he said, “you’re going to have lines, especially right after a storm.”

He praised the state for calling in

additional state personnel to work in the distribution centers, passing

out bottled water

to those people in line and using arenas and former large box

stores to provide a waiting area for people out of the sun and

heat. And he said the state’s organization deserved commendations.

Clearly, the Jindal administration’s response was infinitely better than the state’s response for Hurricane Katrina, albeit

that is likely an unfair comparison based on the magnitude of the disaster caused by Katrina compared to Hurricane Isaac.

But Ludwig noted that the state’s handling of food stamp distribution post-Isaac was much better than its actions following

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008.

Ludwig said that the problems four years ago stemmed from the state’s computer system being overwhelmed and the state using

local offices for distribution, causing overcrowding.

Jindal’s criticism then of the response of the Department of Social Services and secretary of the department, Ann Williamson,

caused her to resign the next day.

That sort of accountability in government is refreshing even if response to such hurricane disasters have inherent problems

that oftentimes must be overcome on the fly.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.