LOUISIANA (KSLA) - Louisiana lawmakers are heading back to the state capital to discuss how they will come up with the enough revenue to fund $500 million worth of state services.
One of the services possibly on the chopping block is the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP.
"I keep telling people, 'Oh, surely this won't happen; I'm sure they'll come up with the money.' But they haven't yet, and it's my job to administer this department in a responsible and fiscally sound way," said Marketa Walters, secretary of the state Department of Children and Family Services.
"The way I'm looking at it, it's June 11th, and in less than 30 days, I have to either start this process or not."
State lawmakers passed a budget, which Governor John Bel Edwards has signed, that could cause Louisiana to be the first state in the country to stop providing SNAP benefits.
"I don't think we should panic at this time," Sen. Greg Tarver said.
Legislators have until the end of the month to figure out a way to fund the budget.
If they don't, the Department of Children and Family Services could take a hit of more than $30 million to its pocket.
"The $34 million equates to a 24 percent cut to us," Walters explained. "And the only area where we can achieve that level of cut is in the SNAP program."
Nineteen percent of Louisiana's population - 860,000 residents - use SNAP to help pay for their groceries.
And during natural disasters, those numbers tend to rise.
"If we shut our program down, there is no disaster food stamp program," Walters said. "And that affects anybody that's been impacted by a flood, whether or not they normally would be eligible for SNAP."
Business owners say a cut to SNAP would not only affect customers.
It also would impact the 4,500 businesses that accept EBT cards to help make ends meet.
"It would affect a lot. A lot of people come and buy snacks, chips and drinks. ... It would hurt us," businessman Toni Rasheed said.
He estimates that 50 percent to 60 percent of his customers use SNAP.
"They help sales and the government."
But as lawmakers head into their third special session, Tarver says anyone who benefits from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program has nothing to worry about - yet.
"I have a good feeling that we're going to wind up balancing the budget by raising the necessary funds to balance that budget."
Lawmakers' next special session is set to begin June 18.