Last Modified: Monday, October 08, 2012 8:21 PM
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.
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.