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BATON ROUGE, LA – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today the appointment of Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services Assistant Secretary for Family Support Shavana Howard to Senior Advisor for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. As such, she will serve as a lead advisor to the Biden Administration on national policies involving federal food assistance benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Disaster SNAP, Pandemic EBT and other programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Howard served as DCFS Assistant Secretary since the early days of the pandemic in April 2020. Ashley Sias, who has served since December 2021 as Special Projects Officer for the DCFS Family Support Division, will replace her. Howard’s final day at DCFS will be January 31, 2023.
“We recruited Shavana to lead the Family Support Division at one of the most challenging periods for our department,” Louisiana’s DCFS Secretary Terri Ricks said. “The COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, and we were headed into what would become back-to-back natural disasters. Our services were in greater demand than ever. Shavana’s innovative approaches helped our teams reach more Louisiana households, and our federal partners are looking for her to bring all that experience to this assignment. We feel confident her time in Louisiana will inspire new and better ways to serve families throughout the nation.”
Under Howard’s leadership, the Family Support staff has expanded access to food assistance, both online and through the LAHelpU customer service center; operated the nation’s first wide-scale virtual DSNAP during hurricane Laura; doubled federal cash assistance benefits through TANF; expanded workforce opportunities; and shifted to more family-centered child support, among other accomplishments. Some of the achievements of the Family Support Division during this period include:
- Responding to an unprecedented need for food assistance, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of natural disasters:
- Issuing roughly $7 billion in total food assistance (SNAP, DSNAP, Replacement Benefits, COVID Emergency Allotments, P-EBT) since March 2020.
- Receiving 5 times the normal volume of SNAP applications in the first 30 days of the pandemic.
- Serving a record 477,227 households (981,751 individuals) in January 2021.
- Adding more than 109,000 SNAP households – Up 23% – between January 2020 and January 2021.
- Implementing the nation’s first large-scale fully virtual DSNAP application process and taking more than 400,000 DSNAP applications via phone during four major hurricanes (Laura, Delta, Zeta and Ida).
- Doubling TANF cash assistance through the federal Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP) and Kinship Care Subsidy Program (KCSP). The increase in TANF Cash Assistance Benefits from $240 per month to $484 per month, moved Louisiana from 50th to 28th in the nation in federal cash assistance to households.
- Expanding partnerships both locally and nationally to improve access and effectiveness of programs and services.
About Shavana Howard
Shavana Howard (headshot) came to Louisiana from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. There she managed the unit that determined eligibility for SNAP, TANF and short-term disability programs, case management and work within the Workforce Development system, helping to make Washington’s SNAP Employment & Training program a national model. Howard started her career with Washington’s Catholic Community Services and then the Commission on African American Affairs. She served as an enlisted Petty Officer in the United States Navy for six years. Shavana served on the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) board as a Western Region Representative for more than four years and sat on the board for Community of Basketball, a non-profit organization in Washington, which provides services to at-risk youth using basketball as a means to mentor. Currently, she is a member of Louisiana’s Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board, Education Workforce Subcabinet, Workforce Investment Council, Military Family Assistance Board, Jobs for the Future Subcommittee, and the LSU Policy Practice Advisory Council. Shavana received her Bachelor’s degree from Washington State University.
About Ashley Sias
Ashley Sias (headshot) currently serves as Special Projects Officer in the DCFS Family Support Division, the Senior Advisor to Family Support Assistant Secretary. In this role she oversees, manages, and supports all of Family Support program initiatives and special projects. Sias’ first work experience at DCFS was in 2009 as a Social Services Analyst. She left briefly to take a supervisory role at the Office of Juvenile Justice before returning to DCFS. She has held supervisory roles in Economic Stability and the Integrated Eligibility Project, where she led the organizational change management efforts. She has served as an advisor to senior leadership and the Assistant Secretary for Family Support since December 2020. Sias is DCFS representative on the Council on the Children of Incarcerated Parents and Caregivers Board. She also serves on the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) ISM planning committee and was named 2021 APHSA Emerging Leader. Sias earned her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Southeastern Louisiana University.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services is the state agency responsible for providing services to families in crisis and in times of financial need. DCFS works to keep children safe, helps individuals and families become self-sufficient and provides refuge during disasters. The department's Child Welfare division is responsible for Child Protection Investigations, Family Services, Foster Care and Adoption Services. The DCFS Division of Family Support is responsible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps); Child Support Enforcement; Workforce Development; Disability Determination Services; and federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Family funds (TANF). The DCFS Division of Emergency Preparedness and Response is responsible for leading Louisiana's Emergency Operations Plan Emergency Support Function-6 (ESF-6) and Recovery Support Function-3 (RSF-3), which require a constant state of readiness in order to support evacuation, response and recovery related to any type of disaster, including evacuation, sheltering, emergency food assistance and human services.